Residents and city leaders who gathered Thursday night in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood where a 51-year-old scientist was recently gunned down spoke passionately about taking the streets back from criminals intent on intimidation.
Gathered in the Belair-Edison neighborhood to take a "solidarity walk" after the killing Monday night of Peter Marvit, they spoke of sticking together to confront crime throughout the city.
"We know we cannot let the cowards win, not in this neighborhood, not in any neighborhood in this city," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, telling the 100 or so residents in attendance that they "deserve to live in safe neighborhoods."
The event, organized by local community groups and local City Councilman Brandon Scott, drew a variety of politicians and civic leaders, including several council members, Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden. Neighbors walked their dogs and pushed strollers during a short walk around the block.
"I'm out here in support because I'm concerned. I have to live in this neighborhood," said Connie Harrison, a 17-year homeowner who lives not far from where Marvit, a scientist working with the National Institutes of Health, was gunned down, feet from the front steps of his home overlooking Herring Run Park. Detectives in the Northeast District have also been investigating a pair of fires they say were caused by Molotov cocktails thrown through apartment windows early Wednesday.
"On my block, we look out for each other, but it's the people who wander in," said Harrison, adding that she regularly sees drug transactions taking place and worries about her safety, especially when coming home at night, as Marvit was. "In a lot of places in the neighborhood, the lights aren't bright enough."
Maj. Darryl DeSousa, commander of the Northeast District, said police are working to identify two teenage male suspects in Marvit's killing whose descriptions were provided to police. Patrols have been "beefed up" in the area, he said.
But DeSousa also said that violent crime in the Northeast is down 22 percent compared with this time last year, with homicides down 32 percent and nonfatal shootings down 23 percent. Across the city, violent crime is down 7 percent, he said.
Scott said the "senseless, scared thugs" perpetrating crime in the area have to be shown the community is not afraid, and he encouraged residents to come to Herring Run Park this Thursday night for a big-screen showing of the Ravens' game against the Cleveland Browns.
Rawlings-Blake said criminals want good citizens and city leaders "to give up" trying to make the city better, but that she and others are "committed and determined" not to.
Kelly Powers, a friend of Marvit's who was wearing one of the scientist's ties, said the violence that took her friend was "the reverse of everything he said and believed," and shows the type of problem the neighborhood has to deal with.
"I don't think this indicates a worsening or a slide, I think it indicates a severity," she said.
Many local residents spoke of the need for good citizens to do more — and not just in reaction to high-profile killings like Marvit's.
"Crime will come to you if you keep your lips zipped, your doors closed and your blinds pulled," said Tony Dawson, past president of the Belair-Edison Community Association, to applause from the crowd.
"Baltimore City and Northeast is one community. We are all in this together," Dawson said. "If we don't claim this community, the elements we don't want to claim this community will."
Earlier Thursday, a 24-year-old man was fatally shot near the Gilmor Homes public housing development in West Baltimore. Officers searched for a weapon that a 911 caller said was discarded by a fleeing suspect. A Mercedes SUV with temporary Virginia tags being sought in the crime was found abandoned on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Residents in the housing development said they feel the mayor is less concerned with their neighborhood than with wealthier ones.
"Look how we're living up here," said Alton Merritt, 28. "She isn't concerned about the lower class of people. We don't have money, but we deserve the same level of respect."
"She doesn't come here, and our babies are getting killed," said Yvonne Givens, 61, who said she voted for Rawlings-Blake and is disappointed with her performance as mayor. "We're afraid to go to the store."
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.