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'They told us this before': Baltimore community disillusioned, fearful after violent weekend

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young talk to a Baltimore resident about crime that is affecting his neighborhood. (Hallie Miller, Baltimore Sun video)

Baltimore’s newly installed mayor, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, joined Police Commissioner Michael Harrison on Sunday afternoon for a joint news conference and canvassing event in the Carrollton Ridge community to address the weekend’s spate of gun violence and ask residents for tips. But the dreary afternoon yielded few responses and instead elicited words of frustration and panic from residents, who said they fear for their safety and that of their children.

Few neighbors answered their doors or opened up to the men. But Marvin Walker — who said he is a relative of two of the victims of Friday’s shooting, including a 1-year-old child said fellow residents feel disillusioned by what they perceive as false promises by elected and public officials.

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“This is the norm in this community,” said Walker, 39. “Those people who stood up there before and looked us in our face and said, ‘We’re going to take care of this’ — nah. They told us this before, but they haven’t.”

In his first day in Baltimore as its official leader, Young reiterated his commitment to driving down the city’s homicides and called Friday’s mass shooting on Ramsay Street, which involved two toddlers, 1 and 2 years old, “unacceptable.”

“It’s not OK for us to live in this city where our babies are suffering gun violence,” Young said. “My heart breaks for our babies, for the families. I’m also heartsick for the many people in this city who are fed up and drained by this level of violence.”

The 1- and 2-year-old children were two of five people shot Friday evening in Carrollton Ridge on Ramsay Street. Police are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the perpetrator of that shooting.

Seven others were shot overnight Friday. On Saturday, one person was fatally stabbed, two people were fatally shot, and three others were injured in separate incidents, according to Baltimore police.

The city is nearing 100 reported homicides so far this year. Almost a dozen of the victims were killed within the last week.

Young and Harrison, two of the city’s highest ranking officials, appealed directly to residents for information about Friday’s shooting, asking them to come forward or leave an anonymous tip. Harrison said officers followed a smart and technological deployment strategy over the weekend and remain committed in tracking down the suspects and serving justice to the affected families.

“If you are committing the violence, if violence is the life that you choose, then we will see to it that prison will be the price that you pay,” Harrison said. “The people who committed this crime have to be held responsible now.”

But Walker said while he feels some relief at seeing Young and Harrison come out to show support, the neighborhood needs tangible solutions. Failing to address the community’s needs, he said, perpetuates the cycle.

“It’s really a sickness in these communities, and if you work on the people instead of building and construction, instead of kicking them out and bringing in new demographics — we need to focus on the people,” he said. “We can’t ignore the trickle-down effect, and these people on the bottom don’t have the control that you people on the top have.”

Young, who assumed his position Thursday after Catherine Pugh resigned amid the controversy surrounding her self-published “Healthy Holly” book sales with the University of Maryland Medical System and other entities that had business dealings with the city, said he understands the anger and frustration among residents, especially after losing family members of his own to gun violence.

“We’re going to show that there are consequences for these terrible actions,” Young said. “To the person or people who pulled the trigger — we’ll find you.”

“To the person or people who pulled the trigger — we’ll find you.”


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But, Young also said, he can’t drive the violence down alone — and that it can’t happen overnight.

Harrison said that while Sunday’s canvassing may not have produced the information they sought, maintaining a strong presence in every neighborhood serves as an important step in reducing violence overall. He added that “this mayor cares” and he has confidence in Young’s ability to lead them through this dark period.

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“It’s a good start,” he said. “But you have to build that trust.”

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