National Night Out seeks to reclaim Baltimore's streets, image

At National Night Out, officials and residents sought to reclaim Baltimore's streets and image.

The onslaught of violence in Baltimore this summer isn't only devastating the victims, their families and friends, Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said Tuesday — it's also embarrassing the city on a national level.

"The image they're showing of our city is sickening," Young said told a crowd in Park Heights during a National Night Out celebration.

Forty-five people were killed in July, the city's deadliest month in four decades, and 116 have been slain between May and last month — a three-month record.

At events around the city Tuesday night, Young, Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake, interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and other officials declared their intent to "take back" the neighborhoods from those who are committing crimes and turn Baltimore's image around.

"The community is coming out to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Rawlings-Blake said. "'We want to work in partnership for a safer Baltimore.'"

Rawlings-Blake said there was no better time to hold the events, which took place in the form of block parties around the city.

"Too many in our community know who the perpetrators are," she said. "We know who is perpetrating the violence. We have to speak up, we can't be silent. That's what National Night Out is about, to say we're going to come forward and reclaim our streets."

Harriette Ladson, a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority's Zeta Healthy Aging Partnership and a former day care operator in Park Heights, stood up from her seat in the shade to hug Rawlings-Blake.

"I just love her so much," Ladson said.

Neighbors line-danced to the "Cupid Shuffle" and enjoyed burgers and hot dogs, while kids jumped rope and played in two bouncy castles.

Tracey Johnson, a therapist who is a member of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., called the interim police commissioner over to her display table, where she was handing out foam stress balls and a list of "20 Alternative Approaches to Stress."

"You might need a little more than 20," she joked with Davis, and gave him a second copy: "Take two."

Davis laughed and thanked her, also taking a blue stress ball.

"Every night should be National Night Out," he said.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton stirred up the celebrants and spoke to their dedication.

"That is what brings pride back into your community," she said. "I can't thank you all enough for coming together."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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