TIME Crime

Baltimore Sees Worst Month for Homicides in 15 Years

Homicide Spike Baltimore
Colin Campbell—AP Baltimore police pick up a pair of shoes after a double shooting on May 24, 2015. One month after riots erupted in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, homicides and shootings are up.

The spike coincides with a decrease in arrests

Thirty-eight people have been killed in Baltimore so far this month, making it the deadliest in 15 years for a city still recovering from the protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.

On Thursday, a woman and a young boy were shot and killed, becoming the 37th and 38th homicide victims this month, surpassing a record set in November 1999 when 36 people were killed.

While homicides tend to spike during the summer months, the increase in murders has coincided with an overall decrease in arrests made by the Baltimore Police Department.

According to the Associated Press, arrests in May are down 56% compared with last year, and it appears that officers are increasingly reluctant to detain suspects after six officers were indicted in the case of Freddie Gray, a black Baltimore man who died on April 19 in police custody.

TIME Crime

Which State Will Be Next to Abolish the Death Penalty?

Death Penalty Nebraska
Nate Jenkins—AP Nebraska's lethal injection chamber at the State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Neb. On May 27, Nebraska became the 19th state to repeal the death penalty.

Several more are primed to repeal capital punishment

Nebraska became the first Republican-leaning state in four decades to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday, the latest signal that momentum is on the side of those who oppose capital punishment. And in the next few years, it’s likely that several more states will outlaw the practice.

Delaware may be the next in line. Governor Jack Markell, a Democrat, has pledged to sign a death penalty repeal bill that has already passed the Senate and is currently in the majority Democratic House Judiciary Committee. That’s only if Montana or New Hampshire don’t get there first; state lawmakers in Montana fell one vote short of passing a bill to abolish the death penalty in February, reaching a 50-50 split on the bill after the Senate passed its own version. Similarly, the New Hampshire Senate also reached a deadlocked repeal vote in April 2014.

But there’s a whole list of states that might yet follow in Nebraska’s footsteps. The seven states that have now done away with capital punishment since 2007 all had one thing in common: they essentially had stopped using their execution chambers altogether. And six states with death penalty laws still on the books — Colorado, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming—haven’t executed anyone in more than a decade.

“When you look at most repeals, they were all in states in which the death penalty had fallen into disuse,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group. “Nebraska followed in the pattern of states in which the death penalty had been functionally discarded in practice.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of Americans still support the death penalty, but that number is at its lowest in four decades. Opposition is coming not just from Democrats, who have historically opposed capital punishment, but increasingly from Republicans who believe the death penalty is too costly and does nothing to deter people from the most heinous of crimes.

In both Kansas and Wyoming — states which haven’t executed anyone in years — conservative lawmakers have introduced repeal legislation in both states, and in South Dakota, another red-leaning state, several conservative legislators have voiced support for doing away with capital punishment. Last year, legislators in the South Dakota House were one vote shy of getting a bill to the floor.

“The death penalty is no longer getting a pass,” says Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “People may support the idea in the abstract, but when they see how it’s done, how it’s doing nothing to enhance public safety, and when they see innocent people being released from death row, they see that they can’t square it with their other values.”

TIME Crime

Minorities Far Likelier to Be Arrested for Minor Offenses in Minneapolis

Minneapolis police protests ferguson
Jim Mone—AP Demonstrators rally outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct to protest police brutality, on Nov. 25, 2014, in Minneapolis.

A new ACLU report finds significant racial disparities in low-level arrests

Black residents in Minneapolis are 8.7 times more likely than whites to get arrested for low-level offenses, according to a new ACLU report that looks at racial disparities made in arrests by Minneapolis police.

The study, which analyzes almost 100,000 arrests by the Minneapolis Police Department from January 2012 to September 2014, focuses on what is known in Minneapolis as “suspicious persons” stops but is in the vein of what’s often called “broken windows” or stop-and-frisk policing.

That strategy focuses on low-level offenses like trespassing and disorderly conduct as a way of preventing larger felonies, but is often criticized as ineffective and leads to patterns of racial profiling.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has often been held up as a model for other American cities: it’s affordable, it has all the cultural amenities of any major metropolis, and it’s remained a magnet for job-seeking millennials. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minneapolis-St. Paul’s unemployment rate is the fifth lowest in the country for a metro area with more than 1 million people.

But patterns of segregation divide the city between more affluent white areas and poorer black ones, and the ACLU report shows that the city suffers the same problems as any other major metropolitan area when it comes to racial disparities and distrust among minorities and police.

“This is part of a larger problem between police departments and communities of color,” says Emma Andersson, an ACLU staff attorney and lead author of the report.

The study also examines the treatment of Native Americans, who are arrested 8.6 times more than whites for low-level offenses — almost the same rates as black residents. Native Americans make up 2% of the city’s population, roughly double the average Native American population in the U.S. According to the ACLU, an average of one out of four Native Americans in Minneapolis are arrested for low-level offenses each year.

Those arrest disparities raise concerns that Minneapolis could face similar issues to those that occurred in the last few months in Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo., where deadly police confrontations and years of distrust led to protests and violence.

“I think communities of color in Minneapolis certainly feel oppressed and targeted in the same ways communities in Baltimore and other places where unrest has occurred,” Andersson says.

TIME justice

Cleveland Police Restrictions by DOJ Among the Most Extensive, Expert Says

Cleveland Police Shooting Protest
Tony Dejak—AP Protesters congregate in front of city hall Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in Cleveland. Members of about 40 churches are protesting the acquittal of a white patrolman charged in the deaths of two unarmed black motorists with a march through downtown Cleveland.

The 110-page report's mandates rank alongside New Orleans' requirements

The U.S. Department of Justice’s 110-page settlement agreement with the Cleveland Police Department released Tuesday includes one of the most extensive sets of restrictions ever placed upon a law enforcement agency, according to a federally appointed monitor working on a similar case.

The agreement requires Cleveland’s police to adopt hundreds of new policies and procedures to fix what the federal government has called a pattern of systemic abuses and unconstitutional practices. It includes mandates to adopt community policing strategies, prohibitions on use of force for people who are handcuffed or restrained and restrictions on firing from and at moving vehicles, as well as extensive mandates on logging use of force incidents—including each time officers unholster their weapons.

The agreement also includes a mandate to invest in police resources like computers, vehicles and other equipment. Geoffrey Alpert, a federally appointed monitor working with police in New Orleans, says he’s never seen a DOJ agreement that included a pledge to boost resources.

“I think that’s essentially the Justice Department saying, ‘Part of the problem is you didn’t fund your police department adequately,'” Alpert says.

Alpert monitors the implementation of what is generally considered the most extensive comprehensive agreement handed down by the DOJ to a law enforcement agency: the 2012 consent decree involving New Orleans police.

MORE: The Problems With Policing the Police

Following a DOJ report that found a history of corruption, use of excessive force and discrimination throughout New Orleans police, the government issued a 122-page agreement calling for a new reporting system to track all use of force incidents; prohibiting threats of violence during suspect interviews; requiring recordings of all interrogations; and even offering guidelines on how officers should refer to transgender residents.

But just as important, says Alpert, the agreement was the first to include outcome measures to determine whether the department was fulfilling its mandated requirements. And since then, he believes the DOJ agreements with departments like Ferguson, Mo., Newark, N.J., and Albuquerque, N.M., have improved over time for each agency.

“Justice has a learning curve,” Alpert says, referring to the DOJ. “You learn from your mistakes, and the agreements after those are oftentimes better versions.”

As the department implements its reforms, Cleveland is awaiting a decision on whether officers will be charged in the deaths last fall of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot as he was playing with a replica gun, and Tanisha Anderson, who died following an altercation with police. Rice’s family is suing the police department for negligence.

Last week, a judge acquitted Officer Michael Brelo, who is white, in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both of whom were black. Officers fired 137 shots into their vehicle following a police chase. Brelo, who was acquitted of manslaughter, fired 15 shots into the car after climbing onto its hood. Last year, Cleveland settled a lawsuit with the victims’ families over their deaths.

TIME Transportation

Amtrak Train That Derailed Sped Up Before Crash

8 dead as all passengers are believed accounted for

An eighth and final fatality in an Amtrak train derailment earlier this week was confirmed Thursday as officials provided more information about the train’s speed ahead of the accident and pledged to install safety technologies to prevent future ones.

Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board who is leading the investigation into Tuesday night’s derailment, gave reporters a more clear tick-tock of the train’s acceleration as speed was still considered a potentially major factor. Sixty-five seconds before the crash, Sumwalt said, an analysis of the train’s forward-looking visual recorder clocked the train at 70 miles per hour; 16 seconds before the crash, the train was going 100 mph.

Amtrak Northeast Regional 188 derailed northeast of Philadelphia Tuesday night en route to New York City from Washington, D.C. Investigators from the NTSB say the train reached 106 m.p.h. moments before the accident along an S-curve with a speed limit of 50 m.p.h. (On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that a lawyer for Amtrak dispatcher Bruce Phillips, who was injured in the crash, said his client filed what appears to be the first lawsuit to result from the derailment, with more than $150,000 sought in damages.)

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer announced Thursday afternoon that an eighth body had been pulled from the train wreckage just hours earlier, bringing the total number of deaths to eight. Mayor Michael Nutter said that officials now believe that all 243 passengers have been accounted for.

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman also reiterated the company’s commitment to install “positive train control” along the Northeast Corridor, a technology designed to slow and even stop speeding trains. Later, in an interview that aired on CNN, Sumwalt said: “We do believe that positive train control could have prevented this accident.”

Engineer under scrutiny

The investigation has now focused on the train’s engineer, 32-year-old Brandon Bostian of Queens, N.Y. Bostian received multiple head and leg injuries in the accident, and Mayor Nutter confirmed that he was interviewed by the Philadelphia Police Department while hospitalized. “It was a pretty short interview in which he apparently indicated that he did not want to be interviewed,” Mayor Nutter said.

On Thursday, the NTSB tweeted that Bostian had agreed to an interview by its investigators.

So far, Bostian has reportedly given a blood sample to determine whether there were any illegal substances in his system and has also turned over his cell phone. Robert Goggin, Bostian’s lawyer, says his client met with police for five hours. Neither the police nor Bostian have commented on that meeting, but Goggin says the engineer has no memory of the crash. Goggin has also told CNN that his client had not been on his phone during the accident and says the engineer has had no significant accidents in his time with Amtrak.

All eight victims have been identified: Jim Gaines, 48, a video software architect with the Associated Press; Justin Zemser, 20, a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman; Rachel Jacobs, CEO of education technology company ApprenNet; Abid Gilani, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo; Derrick Griffith, a dean at Medgar Evers Colege; and Bob Gildersleeve, 45, a vice president at Ecolab, a hygiene and energy technologies company; Giuseppe Piras, who Italian media said worked in the olive oil business; and Laura Finamore, 47, who was reported to have been going back to New York following a memorial service for the mother of a friend.

Better safety controls needed

Many are now questioning the lack of safety controls to slow speeding trains along the Northeast Corridor. According to Amtrak, full installation of positive track control was scheduled to be completed along the heavily trafficked corridor by December 2015, according to the January/February 2015 issue of Amtrak Inc., a company publication. NTSB’s Sumwalt has said that PTC could have prevented Tuesday’s accident.

“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Sumwalt said. He has also told CNN that a “key question” is to figure out why it hadn’t been used, adding: “Why was it in other areas … on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, but why was it not here?”

The likely answer is cost. Most estimates place the price tag at $10 billion to install the technology nationwide. But finding enough federal money to install PTC everywhere will be difficult. Just hours after the accident, a House subcommittee voted down a bill that would’ve increased funding for the beleaguered train service.

For those looking to travel along the corridor, service will likely be limited for several days. There’s currently no service between New York City and Philadelphia, and limited service is running between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., and New York City and Boston. Boardman, Amtrak’s CEO, said the company expects to have full service running through Philadelphia by Tuesday.

TIME Transportation

Navy Midshipman, AP Employee Among 7 Amtrak Crash Victims

A Wells Fargo executive, CUNY dean and technology company CEO also died in the crash

Five of the seven people killed aboard an Amtrak train that derailed north of Philadelphia Tuesday were identified Wednesday evening, with an AP employee, a CUNY dean and a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman among the victims.

A Senior Vice President at Wells Fargo and the CEO of Philadelphia-based education software company AppreNet were also confirmed dead in the crash.

The Associated Press reported that video software architect Jim Gaines, one of the news agency’s own employees, died in the accident.

Gaines—an award-winning software designer who had worked at the agency since 1998—was on his way from Washington, D.C. to his home in Plainsboro, N.J., according to the AP.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt sent employees an e-mail Wednesday describing Gaines as leaving behind a “legacy of professionalism and critical accomplishment, kindness and humor.

AppreNet chief executive Rachel Jacobs had been returning to her home in New York when she was killed in the derailment, her family confirmed on Wednesday. In a statement, the family said Jacobs was “a wonderful mother, sister, daughter, wife and friend,” and that they “cannot imagine life without her”.

Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, was on leave and heading home to Brooklyn on the ill-fated train. Zemsar was a sophomore at the academy and a wide receiver for its sprint football team, described as a “bright, talented and patriotic young man” by a New York City Council member he interned with.

“He was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful,” Zemser’s mother Susan told reporters outside her home. “Everybody looked up to my son and there are just no other words I could say.”

The fourth victim was identified as Wells Fargo executive Abid Gilani, whose death was confirmed by company spokeswoman Elise Wilkinson.

Officials at the City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn confirmed late Wednesday that Derrick Griffiths, dean of student affairs at the institution, was also killed in the crash. Griffith, 42, served students and the community “with passion” and was a “champion for the downtrodden”, the college said in a statement.

TIME Transportation

Amtrak Train That Derailed Was Speeding, NTSB Says

The train was said to be traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit

Investigators continued to pore over the scene of an Amtrak train derailment in north Philadelphia on Wednesday evening, hours after federal authorities said an engineer slammed on the brakes as it traveled at more than twice the speed limit, a move that barely slowed it before going off the tracks to leave at least seven people dead and more than 200 others injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday it was still too early to determine the ultimate cause of the crash and that a team of investigators will, over the next few days, probe factors like the train’s brake system and the track. After officials said preliminary data from a train recorder showed it had been traveling overly fast, speed arose as a potentially major cause.

Robert Sumwalt, a member of the safety board, said in a news conference that Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, which was carrying 238 passengers and a crew of five between Washington, D.C., and New York City, derailed while making a sharp left-hand turn close to 9:30 p.m. Around the time an engineer applied the brakes, Sumwalt said of an initial examination of the data, the train was traveling at 106 m.p.h., or more than twice the posted speed limit on that section of the tracks. “You’re supposed to enter the curve at 50 m.p.h.,” he said, noting that just before the curve the posted speed is 80 m.p.h. Moments later, at the time the recorder stopped working, the train’s speed was clocked at 102 m.p.h.

The crash happened on a curve near the site of an accident in 1943 that killed dozens apparently after problems with the train wheels as well as a lack of oversight. Sumwalt said two recorders were being sent to a lab in Washington, D.C., for further analysis.

“We’ve suffered a tragedy here in our city. Seven people have died as a result of a train derailment, which is a very unusual event,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters. “I don’t think anyone sitting here standing here today has a memory of a derailment of this kind in 50 years.”

“We have not completely matched the manifest that we received from Amtrak with the patient or hospital information,” Nutter said, adding that it was possible that some passengers who survived have not been in contact with local officials or that some who had tickets never boarded the train.

As of Wednesday evening, five of the fatalities had been identified. Among them were Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old software architect who worked with the Associated Press; Rachel Jacobs, chief executive at the Philadelphia-based education technology company ApprenNet; Abid Gilani, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo; Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy; and Derrick Griffith, a 42-year-old CUNY doctoral student and dean of student affairs for the university’s Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

In a televised interview with CNN late Wednesday, after excessive speed was noted before the derailment, Nutter slammed the train’s engineer. “Clearly he was reckless and irresponsible in his actions” he said. “I don’t know what was going on with him. I don’t know what was going on in the cab, but there’s really no excuse that could be offered, literally, unless he had a heart attack.”

A number of news outlets reported into the evening on the engineer’s identity. NBC News reported it had confirmed via Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia that Brandon Bostian was treated for injuries and later released. A lawyer for Bostian, a 32-year-old Queens resident, told ABC News that his client couldn’t recall the derailment and was “very distraught” after hearing the crash had led to deaths. Bostian, who the attorney said suffered leg injuries in addition to a concussion and a head wound, had turned over a blood sample and cell phone to authorities.

Train traffic along the busiest stretch of the Northeast Corridor, the stretch of rail between Washington, D.C., and Boston that Amtrak says serves more than 2,200 trains every day, was set to remain snarled into Thursday. In a statement, Amtrak said it would not operate between Philadelphia and New York City on Thursday, but that New Jersey Transit would honor Amtrak tickets between Trenton and New York City.

Earlier, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey described the scene as “horrific and heartbreaking.” And Senator Bob Casey, who spoke afterward, commended rescuers for working “under the most horrific circumstances.”

The White House released a statement Wednesday morning that offered condolences to the victims’ families.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those we lost last night, and to the many passengers who today begin their long road to recovery,” President Obama said in the statement. “Amtrak is a way of life for many. From Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, this is a tragedy that touches us all.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who often discusses his own frequent trips on Amtrak between Wilmington and the nation’s capital, also released a statement. “Amtrak is like a second family to me, as it is for so many other passengers,” he said. “The victims could have been any one of our parents, children, or someone from one of our communities.”

—With reporting by Dan Kedmey

Read next: Focus of Amtrak Derailment Shifts to Engineer

TIME Crime

These Two Stats Show the Big Problem With Policing in America

Policemen hold their hats at their side during a vigil service for two fellow officers killed during a traffic stop, in Hattiesburg
Lee Celano—Reuters Policemen hold their hats during a vigil service for two officers killed during a traffic stop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on May 11, 2015.

We know how many cops are killed in the line of duty, but not the number of people killed by cops

There are two sets of numbers that tell us a lot about the state of policing in America. This week, the FBI released the latest tally of cops killed in the line of duty. The grim toll in 2014 was 51 law enforcement officers who were killed while doing their jobs (the figure does not include those who died in work-related accidents). That’s an 89% rise from the year before, but still below the average of 64 deaths from 1980 to 2014.

We have those comparisons because the FBI database is considered complete and updated every year. What we don’t know is the corollary number: how many people die as a result of encounters with the police. The FBI does compile a list—the latest shows there were 461 suspects killed in 2013 by police officers, up from 397 in 2010—but it is in no way a comprehensive account because the information is provided voluntarily and only some of the nation’s almost 18,000 police departments contribute. Plus, the FBI’s list is short on details and only specifies the type of weapon used in fatal incidents. Numbers compiled by advocacy groups suggest that the number of people killed by police is much higher, although lower than it once was. According to the New York Times, for example, 91 people were shot and killed by police officers in New York City in 1971 compared with eight in 2013, which was a record low.

The lack of a reliable, comprehensive database has become a flashpoint in the debate over policing following a string of high-profile fatal incidents involving white officers and unarmed black men. These deaths have led to sometimes violent protests and a renewed focus on police use of force against minorities. And the public response helped prompt FBI director James Comey to call for better data in a speech on law enforcement and race. “The first step to understanding what is really going on in our communities and in our country is to gather more and better data related to those we arrest, those we confront for breaking the law and jeopardizing public safety, and those who confront us,” Comey said.

As the FBI’s new data on officer deaths shows, those confrontations can sometimes be fatal. The most common incident leading to an officer’s death came from answering a disturbance call (11), followed by involvement in car chases or traffic stops (10) and ambushes (8). Others were killed while involved in investigations, tactical situations or dealing with drug-related issues.

“There are certainly cases in the last year that have been directly related to the rise in tensions between police and minority communities,” says Marquette University criminology professor Meghan Stroshine, referring to incidents like one in New York City in December, in which two NYPD officers were deliberately targeted and shot “execution-style” apparently as retribution for police-related deaths of unarmed black men. “We have some cases clearly that were of a retaliatory nature or in the name of correcting perceived past wrongs.”

Just within the last two weeks, several officers have died on duty. The first NYPD officer to be killed in the line of duty since December died on May 4 after being shot by a gunman in Queens. And last week, two officers in Hattiesburg, Miss., were killed during a traffic stop. Four suspects have been charged.

TIME Aging

Why More Older Americans Are Suffering From Fatal Falls

55% of unintentional injury deaths among seniors come from falling

One of the fastest growing killers of older Americans isn’t a disease or a disability. It’s the accidental fall.

A new CDC report finds the rate of Americans aged 65 or over who die as a result of unintentional falls has nearly doubled since 2000; 55% of older citizens who die of unintentional injuries do so from falls, up from 33% in 2000. The death rate from falls increased from 29.6 per 100,000 in 2000 to 56.7 per 100,000 in 2013.

There’s no single reason for the steep increase in deaths from falls, and it’s far from clear what may be behind the rise, says the National Center for Health Statistics’ Ellen Kramarow, the report’s co-author. She notes the report is based on death certificate data, and there may be better reporting on underlying causes of death than in the past. But one factor some researchers point to is the continuing increase in overall life expectancy.

“People are living longer and living longer with conditions that make them frail and vulnerable to fall,” Kramarow says.

Before the growth in end-of-life care, assisted living facilities, medications, and hospital procedures designed to extend our lives, many people died from diseases or ailments that previously couldn’t be cured or treated in a way that made them manageable. Today, older Americans can often stave off death from something like heart disease or diabetes with medication that can prolong life longer than ever before. U.S. life expectancy is now at a record high of 78.8.

But as we live longer, often with diseases that once might have killed us, we get more frail — and consequently, researchers say, more likely to suffer fatal injuries from a fall.

Rates for other fatal accidental injuries like car crashes, suffocation, poisoning and fire-related deaths have remained steady over the last decade, according to the CDC. The death rate among seniors due to vehicle accidents actually went down in 2013 to about 15 per 100,000 people from 20 per 100,000 in 2000.

Overall, unintentional injuries resulted in almost 46,000 deaths for those 65 and older, making it the eighth leading cause of death. Unintentional injuries comprised 85% of all fatal injuries in 2012-2013 with suicide and homicide accounting for 15%.

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