Safer Streets with Safe Streets
I recently had the privilege of teaching adult literacy at LIFT Baltimore. When discussing an essay topic the class had just completed, our talk veered into the violent world the students had become accustomed to. A late middle-age student, who had been a mother, told of a horrific incident where her son was tied to a tree and shot for not wanting to join a gang. My heart broke upon hearing this.
We talked further about the territorial nature of gang violence, and in particular, how Cherry Hill was divided between those at the top and those at the bottom of the hill. This escalated the violent activity to unbearable levels.
Then I read an article about a program in Cherry Hill that has mentors and outreach activists speaking out against violence and making their neighborhood safer. Mentorship may be the thing we need to create the strong communities necessary to dispel violent activity, and this ideology is perfectly housed in the Safe Streets program of Baltimore City.
Catering to the Cherry Hill, McElderry Park, Mondwamin, and Park Heights communities, the program enlists outreach workers who are the soul of the organization. They reach out to affected youths with a risk of violence. They call attention to safety and canvass for peace. They respond to shootings with vigils and marches. Pulling a community together is the essence of success in their mission.
The numbers are proving it works. Cherry Hill has had only four shooting incidents and one official homicide during a year where Baltimore has seen its largest ever homicide rate. Similar successes have occurred in the other communities as well. The question is, why hasn’t this program been scaled up to meet the demands of the city?