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Baltimore Shootings, Harbor Point, Heroin Overdose Deaths, and Collecting Unpaid Tolls

Baltimore saw two more fatal shootings yesterday; the city has recorded 23 homicides in the last 21 days. A Baltimore City Council Committee held a hearing last night on legislation that would send some of the $88-million in Enterprise Zone tax breaks headed to the Harbor Point development to the nearby Perkins Homes public housing project. Heroin overdose deaths in Baltimore – and in Maryland as a whole – were up significantly last year. The MdTA is looking to collect some $7-million in unpaid tolls. And more…

Baltimore Shootings: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is joining other city officials this morning in a press conference to talk about reducing crime. The event comes after two more people were fatally shot in West Baltimore yesterday… just a mile away from an incident the day before that saw four people shot. The Baltimore Sun reports that homicides are up eleven-percent in Baltimore this year, with 23 murders reported in the last 21 days alone.

Convicted Murderers Freed: 13 Maryland prisoners who had been convicted of murder are now free after a ruling by the state's highest court. The Court of Appeals says jurors were given improper instructions in cases that were heard decades ago. The decision essentially gives as many as 200 prisoners convicted of violent crimes before 1980 the right to demand new trials. The Baltimore Sun reports that, rather than face an uphill legal battle, the Baltimore state's attorney deemed that 13 convicted murderers and 1 man convicted of attempted murder do not pose a threat to public safety, and ordered their release. Prosecutors say they plan to aggressively challenge the remaining cases.

Harbor Point: Baltimore City Hall was filled last night with supporters of a resolution proposed by Councilman Carl Stokes. It calls for the developers of Harbor Point to put a portion of enterprise zone tax credits into a fund that would help residents of the nearby Perkins Homes public housing community. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns has more on the story; there’s more here from the Baltimore Business Journal.

Fraser Smith Says Baltimore Needs Businesses Committed To City: Baltimore’s approach to economic development has come under fire in recent days.  WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay.

Heroin Overdose Deaths Increase: Maryland health officials are reporting an alarming increase in the number of deaths caused by heroin overdose. Statewide, 378 people died from heroin overdose last year… marking a more than 50 percent increase from the year before. Baltimore saw 126 heroin overdose deaths – a 66 percent increase. Experts tell the Baltimore Sun that the increases could be prompted by police crackdowns on prescription narcotics that could drive addicts to use heroin. Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein tells the Washington Post that the state is taking steps to address this serious public health concern.

Unpaid Tolls To Be Collected: Folks who’ve been skipping out on tolls in Maryland will now have to pay them. The Maryland Transportation Authority says that over the next several weeks it’ll mail out notices to people who’ve used EZPass lanes without transponders. If they pay their back tolls before October, they won’t have to pay any fees or penalties… but eventually, toll-cheats will be hit with increasing fines and could be blocked from renewing their registrations. The Baltimore Sun says nearly 650-thousand drivers owe nearly $7-million in unpaid tolls to the state.

Regional Home Sales: Baltimore-area home sales are up. A report from RealEstate Business Intelligence shows a nearly 20-percent increase in sales last month over June 2012. The Baltimore Sun reports that the median home price in the Baltimore metro region was nearly 263-thousand dollars, up more than five-percent from the same month a year ago.

2 Men Injured In Possible Lightning Strike: Two men are injured in Annapolis and lightning could be to blame. The Anne Arundel County Fire Department tells the Baltimore Sun that the incident happened last night on River Drive in the Annapolis Neck area. The victims are 18 and 24.

New Dog Park In Perry Hall: Baltimore County is getting its fourth dog park; County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced yesterday that the county will build the “Perry Paw Dog Park” at Honeygo Regional Park. The Baltimore Sun reports that the community raised 20-thousand dollars in private funds to support the construction.

Baltimore Baseball: the Orioles won yesterday, taking down the Texas Rangers 6 to 1. The teams wrap up their four game set tonight; starting at 7:05 at Camden Yards.