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Share this advice and maybe save a life

Could someone please clip this column and hand it to the next person likely to kill another in the city of Baltimore?

I don't know who that person is. But someone does. Someone knows someone who's on a bad path right now. That's how these things happen.

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Some homicides result from impulse. But many result from a chain of events over a couple of days. Some guy disses another guy, some guy hits on another guy's girlfriend, some junkie steals dope or doesn't pay for it. Then people collide, and we have another victim, another killer.

All of that does not happen in complete secrecy. Someone hears something. Someone suspects something. Somebody knows.

It's that somebody I'm trying to reach.

In case you're wondering why, it's because people keep killing each other in Baltimore. Homicides are down from last year, but the body count for 2014 is still approaching 200. The FBI says Baltimore had the fifth-highest murder rate in the country last year.

We're all sick of this.

Those of us who live here wish there was some high-tech way to see trouble coming and head it off. There have been good efforts at person-to-person intervention over the years — I think of the late Leon Faruq and the Safe Streets program — but there are still too many homicides.

So I'm making a pitch to people who live close to the risk, who know young men on a bad path.

You probably wonder what you can do or say to keep the worst from happening.

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Try this. Try clipping this column and handing it out as you think it's needed.

Here's a message for the friend or relative at risk of being killed:

Stop. Sit still for a minute. Think about what's going on and the people around you. If you've done something foolish that has put your life at risk, get some help. (There's some information about that at the bottom of this column). Or just get out of town. Borrow some money and get on the Megabus. Don't stay in Baltimore if you think someone is gunning for you. Get away. Let things cool off. That might not put you in the clear forever, but it will certainly extend your life right now.

And listen, while we're on the subject, here's some news you can use: Life is worth living. Life can be better. You have to give it a chance.

The next message is a little longer; it's for the guy with the gun:

Stop. Sit still for a minute. I'm sure you don't give a rat's tail about what I think. But this isn't about me. This is about you and the city where you live. Whatever happened that put you in this bad position — with a gun and a thought about killing another human being — you need to put that aside. Show some inner strength, fight off the urge.

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You have to believe in yourself and believe in your city. Baltimore is trying desperately to get to a better place, and you need to step up and own a piece of that effort, even if you don't feel like you "own" anything right now besides anger and a gun.

It must be hard to see anything but the ugly all around you, but that's why you've been asked to read this. You need to break out and think bigger.

You might not see a promising life ahead — maybe you're into drugs or a gang, maybe you're just mad at the world — but, if you put down the gun and get off the bad path, you can find your way to something better.

So here, I'm putting some information in your hands. Go talk to somebody. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people in Baltimore willing to help. Here are just three examples.

Safe Streets is still busy trying to get people like you to "stop killing and start living." If you're worried for your life — or if you want out of a gang — call 443-462-7100 and speak to James Timpson. He's eager to help.

At the Adult Resource Center of Living Classrooms, 210 W. Madison St., you can get help finding a job, some fresh clothes for the job hunt and a mentor who will be in touch every week and offer support. Call 443-255-5600.

Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake works with more than 300 employers to place people in jobs, and they have special programs just for ex-offenders who've come home from prison. Goodwill's career center still has open enrollment every Friday morning (except the one after Thanksgiving) at 222 E. Redwood St. Call 410-837-1800.

But the first thing you have to do is make a decision to get off the bad path because it's going to take you to one of two places: death or prison. Make a choice to live. Make a choice to put down the gun. Make a decision to be a better man.

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