Baltimore has literally been in flames this past year. The tension between citizens and police reached a climax after an African-American man, Freddie Gray, died while in police custody. Demonstrators, convinced that Gray was the victim of police brutality and racism, participated in violent riots throughout the city, lighting businesses on fire and throwing rocks at anyone in police uniform.
The unrest only escalated in the weeks and months that followed, as the city tallied near record crime. By August, the murder rate had already equaled the total number of homicides tallied in 2014. The climbing murder rate left Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake shaking her head and at a loss of how to combat the violence. While she noted the positive trend of increasing arrests, crime continued to spiral out of control as police admitted they were afraid to do their jobs.
Amid such turmoil, Blake announced Friday morning she is not going to seek another term as mayor.
Blake is also leaving her high profile position in order to spend more time with her daughter before she attends high school, sources added.
She said she is stepping out of the race to focus on "work to move our city forward," and not out of any concern she might not win the race against a growing field of challengers.
"It was a very difficult decision, but I knew I needed to spend time, the remaining 15 months of my term, focused on the city's future and not my own," she said at a news conference at City Hall.
Yet, the violence has to be a major reason for her exit. As recently as last week, protesters again clashed with police at the pre-trial hearing for the six officers indicted in the Freddie Gray case got underway. A line of angry demonstrators blocked traffic and one arrest was made. More conflict is expected in the coming weeks as the first trial is set for Oct. 13.
New leadership will likely be welcome in Baltimore, but will he or she provided the tough-on-crime mentality this city desperately needs?