How the death of Freddie Gray made Baltimore more dangerous

Freddie Gray mural Baltimore.
(Image credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A sudden surge in violent crime in Baltimore coincided with one particular event — the death of Freddie Gray.

Police in Baltimore faced heavy criticism and protests after Freddie Gray, a black man, suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in 2015, and have been reporting fewer crimes in the city ever since, USA Today reported Thursday.

While law enforcement is still responding to everyday 911 calls, they are seemingly turning a blind eye to crimes that they previously reported. In recent years, the murder rate and number of shootings has skyrocketed, making Baltimore the deadliest big city in the U.S. Experts say that the rioting in 2015 changed the Baltimore police force, making officers less likely to act on suspected crime they witness on a daily basis, like drug deals and traffic violations. The number of instances in which an officer approached a Baltimore resident for questioning dropped 70 percent between 2014 and 2017, USA Today found.

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Backlash over Gray's death forced Baltimore law enforcement to examine its use of force and potential biases against minorities, but officers say it also made them reluctant to engage in some situations. "They realize that if they do something wrong, they're going to get their head bit off," said a former Baltimore lieutenant. "There's no feeling that anybody's behind them anymore."

But critics say it doesn't have to be one or the other, and that police should be able to protect the city while still protecting individuals' rights. "What it says is that if you complain about the way the police do our job, maybe we'll just lay back and not do it as hard," said an ACLU advocate. Around 150 people have been killed in Baltimore so far this year. Read more at USA Today.

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