US & Canada

Baltimore's 11-day homicide-free streak ends in gun death

Erricka Bridgeford sitting on the sidewalk where her son was killed Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Baltimore Ceasefire organiser Erricka Bridgeford pauses where her son was killed on a 'Peace and Healing Walk'

The city of Baltimore has ended an 11-day streak without a homicide, its longest spell without a murder in nearly four years.

A 22-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and was pronounced dead in hospital, local media report.

The man's death ends a homicide-free streak that began with a community "ceasefire" initiative on 2 February.

Baltimore has one of the highest homicide rates in the US, with 26 homicides reported in January alone.

A massive police corruption scandal currently hangs over the Maryland city of 620,000 people.

The city has only had three 10-day streaks of no homicides since 2002, Baltimore police spokeswoman Chakia Fennoy told the BBC.

The last was in March 2014.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Balloons hang on a storefront where a man was shot and killed in early February

The "Baltimore Ceasefire" initiative was started by Erricka Bridgeford in an effort to bring peace to the Maryland city's streets.

The organisers, who are not affiliated with the police department, do not take credit for the lack of violence but are ecstatic nonetheless.

"I am losing my mind thrilled," Ms Bridgeford told the Baltimore Sun before the streak ended.

"It's really exciting. Baltimore deserves this boost of love."

'Remember when we cared'

Analysis by Jessica Lussenhop, BBC News, Baltimore

When the first Baltimore Ceasefire was called over a hot summer weekend in August, it was obvious how badly the city needed a break - someone was being murdered in Baltimore almost every day for months.

The streets were awash with guns. The city's police were demoralised and resented. The idea was so tantalising - what if, for just three days, there could be peace?

That first weekend saw two homicides. Organisers tried again in November. On the Friday of the second Ceasefire kick-off, the city hit its 300th murder and an off-duty police officer was murdered on the Saturday.

But the organisers tried yet again. It appears the third time is the charm for "Charm City". Not only did zero homicides take place on the official Ceasefire weekend of 2-4 February, murder stopped in the city for the past 11 days, ending with the death of a young man on Tuesday afternoon.

However, nearly two weeks of no homicides is still a bright spot in a city that is under a dark cloud. An enormous federal corruption trial that ended this week revealed that Baltimore police officers tasked with getting guns off the street have instead been robbing citizens, planting drugs and shirking their duties in every way imaginable.

Baltimoreans talk of being trapped between two gangs - the street gangs and the ones who wear uniforms.

The city has not seen a peace this long in years, and though it's difficult to pinpoint the exact causes, the Ceasefire effort must be acknowledged.

In the words of Ceasefire co-founder Erricka Bridgeford: "Don't be numb... We need to remember that feeling of how it was when we cared."

Baltimore has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country.

The city reported 55.8 killings per 100,000 residents last year, up from 51.4 per 100,000 in 2016.

New York City had 3.9 per 100,000 and Chicago had 28.07 per 100,000.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Activists and residents embrace during a peace walk

At its low point in 2015, 242 homicides went unsolved in Baltimore.

The ceasefire organisers said: "The organizers do not take credit when nobody kills anybody.

"We recognize that this is something that the PEOPLE OF BALTIMORE DID."

They added: "Baltimore has violence because America is a violent country".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Baltimore experienced 342 homicides last year, according to the Baltimore Sun

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