Homicides and shootings have risen dramatically while arrests have fallen in Baltimore since six cops were charged in the death of Freddie Gray, with many police officers saying they've stopped doing proactive police work.
With 43 reported homicides, May was the city’s deadliest month in more than 40 years, the Associated Press reports. Forty-four people were killed in December 1971—but the city's population was much larger then, so May's per capita homicide rate was actually higher.
At the same time, however, Baltimore officers made far fewer arrests in May than they did in previous years, according to public data from the Baltimore Police Department. According to the latest available data, officers made 1,118 arrests between May 1 and May 23; in the same period of time last year, they made 2,663 arrests.
Meanwhile, there were 122 shootings reported in the city between April 26 and May 23, compared to just 52 during the same period in 2014—an increase of 135 percent.
“This is new territory for Baltimore,” Rev. Heber Brown III, one of leaders in the protests that followed Gray’s April 19 death, told Fusion on Friday. Brown had just finished officiating at a funeral for one of the 43: Darrel Alston, Jr., 26, who was shot dead in a quintuple homicide.
“People are not really sure what’s going on—they’re speculating about whether or not police officers are putting as much energy and effort into their jobs,” Brown said.
Baltimore officers say they have changed the way they do their jobs since Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six cops with Gray’s death on May 1. While officers are still responding to 911 calls, they’re being “a lot more cautious” about making arrests and chasing down suspects, Lt. Kenny Butler, the president of Vanguard Justice Society, a local advocacy group for black cops, told Fusion.
Officers claim to be feeling the kind of sentiment that protesters in the city after Gray’s death had hoped to create: more caution during arrests and a greater sense that they would be held responsible if they hurt a suspect.
The Gray case does represent a major change in business as usual: In the past three decades, only five city officers faced criminal prosecution for killing someone while on duty, according to the Baltimore Sun. Only one of those officers was found guilty—and his conviction was later overturned on appeal.
“The police are having a professional temper tantrum,” DeRay Mckesson, an organizer who participated in the Baltimore protests, told Fusion. “The police response highlights how they have been allowed to operate in a world of no rules for so long, and in that world, if they kill people, they don’t get charged.”
Whether Baltimore officers are being too violent or too absent, black residents are overwhelmingly affected: Black people are five times more likely to be killed in police interactions than white people in Maryland; 36 of the 39 Baltimore homicide victims in May were black, according to data obtained by the Sun.
The police department did not respond to several requests for comment.
At a press conference Sunday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake observed that 189 of the 208 killed last year were black men, and said that the city needs to come together to stop the recent violence instead of pointing fingers. "We have to do better," the mayor said. "We have to want more."
Brown said the decline in policing in Baltimore might be an opportunity for locals to take things into their own hands.
"There are opportunities for local community groups to increase their outreach in the community, to police ourselves in some degree," Brown said. "We’re going to continue working on this a long time, even after all the attention on Baltimore goes away."
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.