State's Attorney candidate wants to expand safe houses

On the 11th anniversary of the fatal firebombing of a family in East Baltimore, a candidate for the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office announced he wanted to expand on the success of a safe house built on the charred ruin of the home.

Russell A. Neverdon Sr., a defense attorney hoping to unseat Gregg L. Bernstein, said Wednesday that creating new safe houses modeled upon the Dawson Family Safe Haven center fits his approach of pairing prosecution with "holistic" approaches to criminal justice.

Neverdon said he would seek partnerships with the mayor's office, local universities, non-profits and the corrections system to rehab vacant homes in troubled areas, then turn them into hubs where children and adults can get tutoring or job training. He said his vision includes adding police to the safe houses to build better relationships between law enforcement and the community.

"It gives us a chance to show kids a positive direction to go in, and not just push them through the system," he said, standing outside the Dawson center at 1401 East Preston Street on Wednesday evening. Neverdon said he requested the city open the building for his press conference, but no one showed up to unlock the door.

In 2002, drug dealers upset with the family for reporting them to the police set the Dawson home ablaze, killing Angela Dawson, her husband and five children. The city spent $1 million to rebuild the home and now spends $270,000 a year to run programs for children there.

Neverdon said his proposal can be done more cheaply by partnering with non-profits to apply for grants.

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