The eastern U.S. city of Baltimore has a violent reputation, and a number of organizations
put the Maryland city near the top in violent crime rankings based on
government statistics. In the first half of 2008, local police say overall crime
was down including homicides. But law enforcement officials are troubled by
what they see as a growing number of violent crimes involving young African
American male teenagers and young adults. VOA's Chris Simkins tell us how the
police and a community leader are trying to curb youth violence.
In one neighborhood, African American teenagers
are arrested for allegedly assaulted someone in Baltimore. In another neighborhood, a makeshift memorial marks the spot where a 22-year-old was killed
in an early morning shooting. Police say the violence is part of a troubling
trend of crimes being committed by young blacks.
"If they feel like their
reputation is being tainted or bothered, they do what they need to do to try to
bring it back,” Police Detective Gene Bennett said. “And commonly it is
perpetrating violence on someone that they believe is messing with their
The detective says in recent
years he has seen males between the ages of 14 and 25 more willing to commit
violent crime. Nationwide FBI crime
statistics show the murder rate committed by black male teenagers rose 52
percent between 2002 and 2006.
last three or four years we have had an increase of juvenile victimization and
an increase of juvenile participation in homicides and shooting type
incidents,” Baltimore Police Colonel John Skinner said. “We have really tried
to focus our efforts on disrupting those recent patterns."
Baltimore police are putting
more officers on street patrols in high crime neighborhoods.
On foot patrol, Detective
David Greene stops a moment to chat with some children. "Are you staying out of
trouble, too? What's your name?” he asks.
One of their jobs is to
encourage youngsters to resist influences that might lead them into a life of
crime. Besides the police, others in the community are trying to help young
"There are no
alternatives but jail or death. But the safety house gives them life and hope
because they can come in and have a dialogue, interact, be loved, be directed,
be counseled," Rev. Ray said. Reverend Willie Ray is the founder of an organization
called "Save Another Youth". He opened this safe house 13 years ago,
near a corner in Baltimore's Rosemont neighborhood, where poverty is
commonplace and drug use and violence were once rampant.
Dana Barnes, a homeless woman,
explains her situation to Rev. Ray, "I tried to kill myself a couple of
months ago because I got nowhere to go, nowhere to stay," she said.
Reverend Ray is trying to
comfort people like Dana Barnes, who is seeking a new life free of drugs. Ray
seeks funding to open dozens of safe houses. Counselors would provide
mentoring, job training and educational programs. Some ministers are forming youth groups as an alternative to
"A lot of them do not
want to be on the corners, who do not want to be selling drugs or who do not
want to be involved in gangs but there no real alternatives out there that is being aggressive enough to challenge
them," Rev Ray said.
Reverend Ray says over the last decade he has
made a lot of progress in cleaning up this Rosemont neighborhood but he knows
there is a lot more to be done. His long-range goal is to try and change the
attitudes of the people living in this community not only how they view
themselves but also how they view others.