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Park Heights residents decry area's violence Speakers at forum urge drug prevention efforts


Three white ribbons adorning a bus stop bench at the corner of Park Heights and Belvedere avenues mark the spot where Cynthia Jones was shot and killed last Tuesday as she held her granddaughter in her arms.

The bench is directly in front of the New Fellowship Christian Community center, where more than 60 members of the Park Heights community met last night at a forum to raise awareness of drug treatment and prevention resources in the community.

The shooting of Ms. Jones occurred during a fight on a bus and apparently was not drug-related. Nevertheless, speakers at the forum, which at times took on the feeling of a revival meeting, made a direct connection between drug use in the community and the violence that has claimed so many lives like Ms. Jones'.

"I guess for me the hardest thing is the tragedy that happened outside the doors of this lovely church," said Jean Yarborough, president of the Park Heights Networking Community Council, which sponsored the forum.

The way to fight violence, Ms. Yarborough said, is to bring drug prevention and treatment resources to the community and to provide information about resources that exist. Residents, she said, must get involved in programs that help youths and treat substance abusers.

"We can't sit at home and expect these things to go away. It isn't going anywhere," Ms. Yarborough said. "I ask you to join the fight."

The forum highlighted a diverse array of programs in the Park Heights community, a list that surprised even some of the guest speakers.

"Everybody talks about the problems in Park Heights, but nobody talks about what's here and what we need to do to connect with each other," said Zelda Childs of the New Visions counseling center, referring to other agencies and programs that could work with her center.

Those connections are important "so that we do have a continuum of care, so we can get some of these people out of this thing that we're caught in," she said.

Other programs highlighted included the Safe Haven project that offers shelter to children on their way to and from school; Gateway to Manhood, a program sponsored by the Liberty Medical Center designed to enhance self-esteem and provide jobs to young African-American men, and a drug awareness project at Pimlico Elementary School that enlists mentors from the FBI and the Social Security Administration.

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