Family members of Donye Lowther, the 27-year-old father who was mercilessly killed in a carjacking, are understandably desperate to find his killer. But they have run into an all too familiar brick wall in Baltimore: Nobody will come forward. The fear of retaliation often prevents people from speaking up when they have witnessed a crime in this city.
That hasn’t stopped the the family and local anti-violence advocates from banding together to demand answers. They’re refusing give in to the stop-snitching culture that has such a firm hold on the city or to accept that not a single soul knows what happened to Lowther, who was carjacked in the 2200 block of Fleetwood Ave. on Sept. 25, his body later found discarded by an apartment complex dumpster nearby. They took to the streets in a peaceful protest march Monday night, begging for someone, anyone, to help in their relative’s case.
“You see all of these windows,” Lisa Molock , founder of the anti-violence group No One Left Unhelped, told The Sun’s Nick Dimarco, referring to the Pangea Pines Apartments, near where Mr. Lowther was found dead. “Somebody has seen something.”
This is the kind of united front it will take to stand up against the ruthless criminals that have overrun some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, and we need more people engaged in the fight. Too many of the bad guys are left to run the streets and continue to commit violence with impunity because they can get away with it. The residents of these communities have a role to play in making this stop as the city faces violence of crisis proportions.
We know this won’t happen overnight. Trust of police in the city is tenuous at best, and there are legitimate reasons to be fearful of disrupting the social hierarchy that has existed for so long. No one wants to confront the suspected murderer at the risk of securing their own death sentence or that of a loved one. In Baltimore, some of those who have taken that bold step to come forward have been threatened, firebombed and killed. So, instead, residents focus on getting through life and keeping their noses out of matters that don’t involve them.
But at the end of the day, it’s going to take people like the family and friends of Mr. Lowther, who are fed up and decide that staying silent isn’t good enough — that they could get caught up in the crossfire whether they snitch or not; that it might be their young son, daughter or nephew who is killed by a stray bullet, while sitting in the back of a car. The criminals have gotten so ruthless, and bullets so indiscriminate, that everyone is vulnerable.
We see hope in the large anti-violence marches headed by people such as Erricka Bridgeford, and her Baltimore Ceasefire movement. Smaller gatherings like that for Mr. Lowther also show that some people are tired of the status quo. They are examples for others on the value of taking a stance for safe neighborhoods.
Of course, it would also help for the police and Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby to make people feel that they will be protected if they make that dangerous move to testify against someone. The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office has made some strides and greatly expanded its victim and witness services programs with increased funding from the state, but too many witness still feel too vulnerable to step forward. If law enforcement wants citizens to cooperate in investigations and trials, officials have an obligation to make potential witnesses feel safe. Right now, they are not doing a good job of that. Just look at the statistics: About one-third of cases in the city are dismissed because of uncooperative witnesses. Many more cases probably go unsolved for the same reason.
Chyna Lucas, who has a son with Mr. Lowther, also has hope — hope that someone will have the courage to speak up and help find her child’s father’s killer. She is perplexed that no one has come forward, despite some 2,000 or so social media posts asking for help.
Ms. Lucas shouldn’t give up, and residents shouldn’t dismiss how they can help clean up the crime in their neighborhoods. There is strength in unity and numbers, and getting involved will make more of a difference than watching in silence. There is as much to lose from taking action as there is in doing nothing.