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Crime

‘Like a war zone’: After 3 deadly shootings days apart, residents of Baltimore’s Carrollton Ridge renew calls for help

After three deadly shootings in five days, residents of Carrollton Ridge are once again demanding more help from city officials and Baltimore Police, saying the violence in their struggling neighborhood has reached crisis levels.

“This is like a war zone,” said Emmanuel Abrahante, who heard gunshots early Thursday that sounded close enough to pierce the brick walls of his rowhouse. “Of course we’re scared.”

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Abrahante, 32, moved to the area after emigrating from Puerto Rico as a child. He said the environment has made him paranoid — always watching his back, afraid to let his son play outside. He wants to see more police patrolling the streets, especially in the immediate aftermath of violence.

The shooting around 2:30 a.m. Thursday left a man dead in the 300 block of South Pulaski Street. Baltimore Police identified him Monday morning as Kenneth Blackstone, 29, and said the investigation is ongoing.

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Two days after his death, an unidentified male victim died from gunshot wounds just blocks away. That shooting was reported around 6:15 p.m. Saturday in the 1900 block of Wilhelm Street. Neighbors said police found the victim in an alley.

Then on Tuesday morning, a man was shot multiple times around 6:45 a.m. in the 1900 block of Ramsay Street. The three recent shootings occurred within a quarter-mile radius.

So far this year, police have recorded eight homicides in Carrollton Ridge, according to the latest available crime data.

“The city has the power and the money to change it, but they do nothing,” said Abrahante, gesturing in frustration toward several nearby vacant houses.

Residents said the blighted properties attract crime, providing shelter to people using drugs and creating opportunities for dealers to do business in the neighborhood.

Around the corner, on Ramsay Street, June Kemp was relatively nonchalant about the gun violence that has become a common occurrence on her block — the place she’s called home since she got married in 1955 and moved to Carrollton Ridge with her husband.

“This is my neighborhood,” she said simply. “But it’s sad, you know.”

She turned 90 this year and has no plans to move. Her well-maintained Formstone rowhouse sits between two vacant buildings.

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Other residents said they want to move elsewhere, but low property values mean they can’t easily afford to leave.

Decades ago, the area was safe and quiet, Kemp said. She remembers leaving her doors unlocked, walking to church with her children and socializing with neighbors well into the evening. Now, she stays inside after dark and keeps her front door double-locked.

But during the day, she remains a fixture on her front porch. She was out there Sunday afternoon enjoying the warm weather.

While Kemp chatted about how Carrollton Ridge has changed over the years, another scene unfolded a few doors down, where two people were sitting outside a vacant home, their belongings sprawled across the porch. A man lay motionless with his head propped against the wall while a woman spent several minutes applying eyeliner and eating a snack. She then picked up a syringe filled with brownish liquid, which she injected into her neck.

She used her makeup mirror to choose the injection site and slowly depressed the syringe. Seconds after removing the needle, she closed her eyes and nodded off, resting her head on the man’s chest.

Kemp said some residents will call police on squatters, but the sheer number of vacant houses creates an intractable problem. She doesn’t go to the nearby corner store anymore because she feels unsafe.

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Kemp said she was sitting at her computer Saturday evening when shots rang out.

“All these guns,” she said, adding that it’s hard not to become desensitized to the violence.

On May 13, a dead body was found inside a vacant house on Wilhelm Street, just one block over from the site of Saturday’s fatal shooting. The victim died from gunshot wounds, an autopsy later revealed. That was just days after emergency crews responded to a house fire in Carrollton Ridge and discovered a gunshot victim inside the burning building.

Both incidents prompted cries from neighborhood residents about the staggering concentration of blighted properties, drug activity and rampant gun violence.

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“Once the drugs start, then the bullets start,” said another Carrollton Ridge resident, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.

He pointed to his neighbor’s cracked front window — a glaring reminder of the stray bullet that caused the damage.

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“We are like veterans with PTSD. Every time I hear shots, I jump out of my skin,” the man said. “But the city doesn’t care about us. Their focus is on downtown and the middle-class neighborhoods. We need change.”

He said the first step could be addressing vacant houses. Hopefully, that would discourage some of the open-air drug markets that seem to keep cropping up, residents said. They also called for increased investment in job training and youth programs, initiatives that could help young people find a productive path forward in their neighborhood.

Despite the obvious issues, they said Carrollton Ridge also gives them reason to remain hopeful about its future. They listed off its perks: a nearby hospital, two shopping centers and Carroll Park. Camden Yards is relatively close, as is Interstate 95.

Roy Mott, 62, said he never could have imagined how the neighborhood of his childhood would deteriorate.

“It’s unreal,” he said of the Thursday shooting, which occurred around the corner from his now-vacant childhood home. “It’s been so sad to watch.”


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