Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced Friday night that her office will help host a series of "pop-up" events throughout the summer in hopes of providing an outlet for young people amid a continued spike in violence.
Speaking at an anti-violence event at Mondawmin Mall, Mosby said the events will occur every Friday night for the next 11 weeks. Young people who sign up will receive text alerts the night before on events that will include skating, basketball, and night swimming, she said.
"We have to be there for our children before they get to the criminal justice system," Mosby said in an interview. "It's important for young people to understand we are on their side, and we're going to be supportive of them."
Friday's event at Mondawmin Mall was held in conjunction with a national Gun Violence Awareness Day, and featured appearances from local rappers and a performance from a dance group.
Through the first five months of the year, homicides in Baltimore were up 32 percent compared to the same period last year, and were up 85 percent compared with the same period three years ago. A number of high-profile crimes have occurred recently involving teenagers, including a spike in carjackings. Mosby said youth appear to be treating carjackings "like some kind of sport."
"The violence in our community is completely unacceptable," Mosby told the crowd. "We've got to step up. We're the only ones being impacted."
Mosby said she believes the surge is cyclical, driven by longstanding problems.
"There are a lot of systemic issues as to why crime takes place in the city of Baltimore," she said. "We have to provide economic and recreational opportunities. If we don't do that, we're going to continue to see the surge in violence that we've seen."
Mosby pointed to her office's 93 percent felony conviction rate, a figure that does not include cases that are dropped before going to trial.
Her office is paying 55 young people to take part in an internship program with the state's attorney's office this summer. Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said nearly 9,000 young people have been connected with summer jobs citywide.
Rapper and dirt bike rider Chino Braxton, who was shot last year and was close to slain rapper Tyriece "Lor Scoota' Watson, took the stage and urged young people not to pick up guns.
"I just want everyone in the city to stop the gun violence, stay focused, chase y'all dreams, chase whatever you're after. Get whatever you want to get in life," he said.
Wesley Hawkins, 31, a youth mentor who runs a program called the Nolita Project, asked the crowd to repeat the phrase, "I have a reason to live."
He said too many young people in Baltimore believe living to see 21 is an accomplishment. "I know some people are struggling, we're going through hard times," he said. "But you still have a place and reason to live."
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis asked those in the crowd to relay the event's messages to 10 people they know. "We're better than the gun violence," he said.
To sign up for the summer "pop-up" events, text "BALTSAOPOPUP" to 468311.