There’s a website dedicated to taking notes on each murder in Baltimore, and they have been doing it for quite a while now. I don’t know who runs it, but their record-keeping is pretty good. Anyway, I decided to look at some of the homicide numbers for Baltimore so far… Again. Last time, I showed you how 2015 has gearing up to be a historical year in terms of the homicide rate per capita. For this blog post, I took the date from the website I mentioned above and did some math.
First, I took the ages of the different victims and looked at the age distribution:
Those very young children are mostly the result of violence from their own parents. In one case, the mother killed the child and then jumped to her own death from a car garage. In another, the child’s stepfather suffocated the child when the child wouldn’t stop crying. Yet another child was left in a hot car. You can read about these cases here.
The child between 7 and 8 there was killed along with his mother. The case remains open. The preteen? He was the victim of a murder-suicide, and was part of five murders in the first five days of 2015. Little did we know where the city was heading in terms of violence.
From there, you can see that homicides climb quickly as the victims’ ages increase. The average age of the victims is 30, while the median is 29. This tells us that the distribution is fairly normal (bell-shaped). The minimum age was the days-old child whose parents were drug addicts and allegedly didn’t bother to care for their child. The maximum age was 71, a man who had taken a friend to the MVA at a mall when a robbery went bad.
The very interesting figure was the distribution of gender. It was interesting but not surprising given the nature of most of these homicides. Of the 306 homicides to date (November 19), men outnumber women 10 to 1.
Finally, I looked at the Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL), which is a measure of how much productivity or contribution is lost when these folks died. For that, you take the life expectancy and subtract the age at death. Of course, Baltimore has some pretty big disparities in terms of life expectancy between neighborhoods. But, since I didn’t have the home address of the victims, I used Baltimore’s average life expectancy for males and females.
About those disparities… Look at this map:
Yeah, it’s pretty bad.
So I looked at YPLL for Baltimore, and I came up with about 11,800 years of potential life lost. That means that all those people killed were not able to life a collective 11,800 years. Take away all the disparities in terms of employment and wages, and that’s 11,800 years of no wages being earned, taxes being paid, and productivity.
From the Census Bureau, we know that the per capita income in Baltimore City is about $24,000. Again, if all things were equal and all of these folks were going to be gainfully employed throughout the rest of their life, we’re talking about over $284 million in income not being made. At Baltimore’s current tax rate, it’s a little over $9 million in income tax lost. These figures depend on a lot of things that I’m not prepared to discuss. Nevertheless, all these deaths cost much more than money to Baltimore. I just wanted to make it a little more tangible that Baltimore cannot sustain this, especially when people are likely to move out again if there is a return to the homicide rates seen in the 1990’s, when hundreds of thousands of Baltimore residents moved out of the city.
So here we are, looking at the last 40 or so days of 2015 and knowing that about 40 people are likely to get killed in those days… And there is little that can be done. Or, rather, there is a lot that can be done, but it probably won’t be done soon enough due to a number of reasons.
Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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