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New killings make May worst month for Baltimore homicides in 19 years

"People feel as though they can do things and get away with it," resident Donnail Lee said.

By Doug G. Ware
New killings make May worst month for Baltimore homicides in 19 years
With the deaths of a young mother and her son Thursday, May has become the worst month for homicides in Baltimore in nearly 20 years. The outcry over the Freddie Gray case has had an impact on police presence throughout the city, some residents say. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

BALTIMORE, May 28 (UPI) -- The murders of a woman and her 7-year-old son make May the worst month for homicides in Baltimore in nearly 20 years.

The two were found dead Thursday after reports of a shooting, police said. Family members identified the victims as Jennifer Jeffrey-Browne, 31, and her son, Kester "Tony" Browne, the Baltimore Sun reported. Both were shot in the head, police said.

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The pair's death brings the city's May homicide total to 38 -- the most since 1996, the Sun report said. The total so far for 2015 is 111. Thursday's deaths pass the previous mark of 36 homicides, recorded in 1999.

Homicides typically spike during the summer months, Time reported, but Baltimore's current rise has coincided with fewer arrests by the Baltimore Police Department. The unrest over the Freddie Gray case has factored into the May statistics, experts believe.

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Gray was arrested in April and sustained fatal injuries while he was being transported to the police station. His death sparked nationwide anger, dozens of protests and some rioting and looting.

The escalating murder rate has some residents concerned, CBS Baltimore reported.

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"I'm afraid to go outside," resident Antoinette Perrine, whose brother was shot and killed three weeks ago in West Baltimore, said. "People wake up with shots through their windows. Police used to sit on every corner, on the top of the block. These days? They're nowhere."

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Perrine added that she has taken security measures to protect her home, such as barricading her front door and attaching metal slabs onto her windows to deflect potential gunfire.

"Before, it was over-policing. Now, there's no police," resident Donnail Lee said. "People feel as though they can do things and get away with it. I see people walking with guns almost every single day."

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts, however, said officers aren't pulling back. Part of the challenge, he said, is that there is a lot of hostility toward his department.

"Our officers tell me that when officers pull up, they have 30 to 50 people surrounding them at any time," Batts said.

With three days remaining in May, and the Freddie Gray case still in the spotlight, the city's murder tally is expected to rise even further.

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