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Baltimore mayor fighting crime

Tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the War Memorial Building, Mayor Sheila Dixon kicks off her "It Takes a Village" program for Black History Month. It will end with an address from Bill Cosby, who isn't shy about encouraging people to take responsibility for their actions.

The event is being held on the same spot where Barack Obama address Baltimore days before he became president and where just a week ago the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP held a rally to stop the violence. While Dixon's event addresses broader themes than the city's crime, Dixon made the connection to violence in her newletter published today.

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Click here for a full schedule of events.

This comes just days before Dixon is scheduled to give the state of the city address on Monday. I'm sure crime will be an important issue; 2008 ended with the fewest number of homicides in 20 years, but other crime was still an issue. The latest figures from city police, for the week ending Jan. 31, show the reverse -- significant drops so far this year in rape, robbery, assault and larceny, but an increase in homicides.

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In all, police report a 19 percent drop in the most significant crime compared to the first month of last year. But homicide in that time period jumped 57 percent, from 14 in January 2008 to 22 in January this year. At the same time, shootings dropped 38 percent, from 34 to 21.

In her newsletter, Dixon pleads with residents to help curtail violence:

Dear Citizens:

I am asking for your help. When I began my Administration, it was with the youth in mind.  As a former teacher and as a mother, they have always been the driving force of my career and my life.  That's why the recent rise in juvenile homicides has been particularly devastating, but it has also been a challenge that I have resolved for our City to overcome. Our children are killing each other. And this is a battle that I refuse for this City to lose.

To address this, my administration is staying focused on strengthening the successful strategies that enabled us to have the lowest homicide rate in two decades in 2008. But that's just not good enough!  One death is one too many. It takes a village to raise a child.  We will also be looking to you, the communities, for more ways to make the reduction of this violence a comprehensive effort that partners with our businesses, our politicians, our neighborhood organizations, our churches and our families.  Here are some examples of strategies that are working.

Strong partnerships among the Health Department, Police Department, Department of Juvenile Services, State's Attorney's Office and others, operate programs such as Operation Safe Kids.  These programs identify juveniles at high risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence and provide intensive supports, services and supervision.

Groups like the Rose Street Community Center in Madison East End and On Our Shoulders in Edmondson Village (to name only a couple) are out on the streets every day offering increased stability to some of our most high-risk youth in some of the most dangerous parts of our city.

I have established the Mayor's Inter-Agency Sub-Cabinet on Youth to manage the coordination of efforts of public-funded programs serving youth at the community level, and we continue to invest in initiatives like community schools, after-school, and youth employment through Youth-Works and After-School Matters II.

All of these strategies are essential ways to provide the nourishment and support our youth so desperately need to realize their potential, but we can do better.  As a City and as adults, we must continue to pursue these and every other avenue to preserve and protect our children.  I sincerely believe we have all the tools we need in Baltimore City to reverse this epidemic, but it begins with you: the people of Baltimore City.  Please help me.

Tomorrow, Saturday February 7th, from 2p.m. to 6 p.m., in the War Memorial Building, I will be hosting my second annual Black History Month Celebration, "It Takes a Village".  This event will have performances from local talent including some of our many examples of successful youth in Baltimore City.  It will also feature a keynote address by actor, comedian, and activist Bill Cosby, on the theme "It Takes A Village".  This event will be an opportunity to celebrate our past, but will also be an opportunity to give a frank assessment of how we, as a community, are preparing our youth to carry this torch. I encourage you to join me tomorrow.

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