The red dot in April 2015 indicates the date of the murder of Freddie Gray.

What My Doctoral Dissertation Showed Me About Crime and Homicide in Baltimore City

An epidemic of homicides started in Baltimore in 2015 and continues without signs of slowing down.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH
5 min readSep 9, 2020


My doctoral dissertation was a study of homicides in Baltimore between 2005 and 2017 in order to better understand what is going on. Right off the start, I used data to show that, indeed, there is an epidemic of homicides in Baltimore that started right around April of 2015, and that intensified since the unrest following the homicide of Freddie Gray Jr. From there, the dissertation was presented in three parts.

The Personal Characteristics

The first part of the dissertation looked at the 3,366 homicide victims reported between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2017. The age, gender and other individual characteristics of those victims were analyzed. Here are the major findings:

  • The majority of homicide victims were African American males between the ages of 15 and 34. Even when adjusting for population differences between age groups, this group constituted the majority of victims, and most of them were killed by firearm.
  • Female victims were less likely than their male counterparts to be killed by firearm, and they were more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence. They were also more likely to have been killed at home.
  • Most homicide victims were also unemployed or under employed, and the proportion of them who did not finish high school was significant.
  • Adjusting (accounting) for differences in the population by age group, there were eight (8) African American homicide victims for every two (2) Hispanic victims and for every one (1) White victim. (Figure 3.6)

The Neighborhood Environment

The second part looked at the neighborhood characteristics where the homicides happened. For that, I took the addresses of the homicide locations and geocoded them, overlaying them on a map. That allowed me to determine in…



René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)