The scourge of violence


From the time most of us left work last Friday afternoon until we returned Monday morning, five more people were killed in Baltimore. This came on the heels of the shooting of 9-year-old Lakiya Bradford, who was hit as she walked toward a snow ball stand in East Baltimore. Just a week earlier, 6-year-old Tiffany Smith was killed in the cross fire of an apparent drug shootout while she played on the sidewalk in front of a friend's house.

Tragically, killing has become so routine in this city that it has integrated itself into the very fabric of urban life. Mothers in some inner-city neighborhoods now put their children to sleep with the sound of gunfire outside. And countless citizens live defensively -- fearing to venture out at night or to walk routes that are particularly dangerous. Blame drugs. Blame the proliferation of guns. Blame rising frustration and anger in the city's poverty-wracked communities. No matter; the cumulative effect has been to create neighborhoods that are little more than war zones, and to reinforce the growing anxiety that whatever set Baltimore apart as one of the country's more livable cities is fast disappearing.

Ironically, on Sunday -- when three of the five newest killings occurred -- hundreds of Baltimore residents lined portions of North Avenue in "Love Hands Across Baltimore," which has become, sadly, an annual rally against the increasing levels of violence in the city. Baltimore officials have an obvious obligation to respond; so, too, does the state, whose narrow vision of the city too often begins and ends with the glitter of the Inner Harbor but whose fate is intimately linked with the quality of life in Baltimore's neighborhoods.

The anguished outcry of the participants in "Love Hands," against the background of five new killings, should prod both Mayor Schmoke and Governor Schaefer to work together aggressively and directly to fight this scourge of violence.

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