Residents, city leaders walk for safety in Waverly

Elford Jackson stood across from the Yau Bros. carryout on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly Saturday afternoon, on the future site of a neighborhood resource center.

The Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity purchased the building last April, but considered not moving there after two men were fatally shot and a third was wounded inside the Chinese restaurant in March last year.

But two more killings last week on Greenmount Avenue, including another in the same carryout, prompted the fraternity members to change their minds again.

"This is where we need to be," Jackson said. "This is why we want to stay right here."

The fraternity exemplified what Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III asked of residents on Saturday at a solidarity walk on Greenmount Avenue, which started at the Darker Than Blue Cafe and passed the sites of the two most recent killings.

Bealefeld urged a crowd of residents and business owners to "walk when the [TV] cameras aren't here."

Saturday's walk, which was attended by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and City Council members Mary Pat Clarke and Carl Stokes, and Fire Chief James S. Clack, was aimed at addressing the violence in Waverly and some shop owners' worries that their safety concerns were being ignored.

On April 9, 72-year-old Charles Bowman was shot to death during a $13 robbery in the same carryout where the two were fatally shot in March 2009. Two days later, when Greenmount Avenue was buzzing with Saturday afternoon shoppers, a 20-year-old man was shot outside the Osprey gas station after an argument in a nearby restaurant.

Even though residents decided to walk to support their community, there were noticeably fewer pedestrians on Greenmount since last weekend.

"I have to support my neighborhood," said 20-year-long Waverly resident Joyce Carter. She walked with her 13-year-old son, Dominick, and her 7-year-old grandson, Cory.

"I'm not scared. I'm not afraid," she said. As she walked down the main street of north Baltimore, Carter was greeted by several neighbors on the sidewalk.

After passing the gas station parking lot, where the latest shooting occurred, she was "upset," saying her adult son had witnessed the argument and the victim being gunned down. Despite last week's violence, Carter said "I'm not having that," saying she does not hesitate to call police if she sees drug-dealing or suspicious people on the corner.

Carter's neighbor on 36th Street also attended the walk.

"Whatever the community needs, I'm there," said Tricia Taylor, 59, a board member with the Better Waverly Community Organization.

When she heard about the shootings, she said "I was hurt by it — to know that young people are being killed, that resources are being lost." She said the neighborhood has lost several youth programs. While she said she wants to see more free programs for children, Taylor said the walk is good because "people are getting to see what Greenmount Avenue has."

Since the recent violence, additional police have been patrolling the area.

"We will continue thorough saturation of officers along Greenmount Avenue," with additional officers from tactical units, said Maj. Ross Buzzuro, the commander of the Northern District.

Saturday's walk was not the only effort in Waverly to unite the community. On Thursday, Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway and the Rev. Willie Ray of Stop the Killing/Save Another Youth coalition held a candlelight vigil for Bowman at Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street.

Despite neighborhood support, store owners continued to worry about the effect on business if outside customers are scared away by the recent violence just as the neighborhood has begun to revitalize.

Casey Jenkins, owner of the Darker Than Blue Cafe, said that business have lost "significant" business since last week, but he's optimistic saying the commissioner—"you can see in his demeanor that he doesn't want this to happen."

"I think they are doing their job," Jenkins said of the police. However, "I hope it's not a Band-Aid over a bullet hole. We've got to do our part. Residents need to speak up," he said.

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