Leaders in the city's law enforcement, social services and medical fields urged young people yesterday to get involved in an effort to stem youth homicides in Baltimore.
More than a dozen experts and professionals working to reduce crime among youths spoke at City Hall during the Youth Commission Comprehensive Summit on Juvenile Homicide in Baltimore City, stressing the need for young leaders to offer their wisdom on how best to reach troubled youths.
"It's not as sexy as it is in the music videos," said Maj. Richard Hite Jr., an outreach coordinator in the Police Department's Community Affairs Division. "We got to show young people that. It's not fun doing 80 years. We want to talk about why it's not attractive, why it's not sexy to be carrying that weapon at 11, 12, 13 years old."
Leaders also highlighted mentoring programs intended to promote prevention and intervention, including stepped-up enforcement of the city's curfew for juveniles. In the past three weeks, police officials said, 400 young people have been taken off the streets using the curfew ordinance.
"It's an immediate impact, but how do we prevent that young person from being out past midnight next week?" asked James H. Green, director of the department's Special Projects Division. "We must put accountability back in homes, back in the community."
The summit was held less than a week after two violent episodes at Baltimore public schools. On May 24, a 12-year-old girl was stabbed with a steak knife by a 10-year-old classmate at Steuart Hill Academy. The same day, a 10th-grader at Carver Vocational-Technical High School was shot less than a block from Walbrook High.
Neither of the injuries was considered life-threatening, police said, but the incidents highlighted the difficulties that school officials face in maintaining a safe environment for students.
"It just seems like right now there are more incidents at the schools or around the schools," said City Council President Sheila Dixon, who introduced the resolution calling for the summit. "Instead of getting better, it's getting worse."
The school system's police chief, Antonio Williams, said violent crime at the city's 195 schools is 20 percent lower than it was last year. Even so, he said, "this whole issue of juvenile homicide and juvenile violent crime should be considered a crisis."
Chantel Clea, chairwoman of the Baltimore City Youth Commission and a sophomore at Morgan State University, said she was galvanized after the shooting death of her cousin and seeing several classmates killed to push lawmakers to examine the issue.
"I do want the youth to know that there are people who live in the community who care about this issue," Clea said.
Among those speaking were Janet S. Hankin, an assistant Baltimore state's attorney, and Jamaal Moses, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Children, Youth and Families.
"A lot of programs that they talked about, they're there on paper - a lot of people are getting paid - but they're not effective," Dixon said. "They need to get youth, young people involved to make some changes."