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Calling teens 'criminals' isn't the real problem

On May 25, 2019, the Inner Harbor and surrounding areas of Baltimore had the pleasure of dealing with a “gathering” of young boys and girls roaming the streets (“Baltimore police bolster Inner Harbor patrols after youth activity last weekend,” May 31). I call it a “gathering” because it was reported that this is what the teenagers were calling it on social media. I am not aware of the initial intent of this gathering, but I am aware that it quickly escalated to assaults, robberies and property damage. Six were arrested for destruction of property and disorderly conduct. However, many who wreaked havoc on the city scattered and were not found. Although the majority of the crowd behaved and did nothing wrong, there were a few who felt the need to act out. The following weekend Baltimore dealt with another round of violence.

By my recollection, there were at least three or four other incidents in the past year of rowdy kids roaming the streets, some of whom committed crimes and then two major issues in Baltimore County in which arrests were made. At the time of the Memorial Day weekend “gathering,” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Mike Mancuso released the following statement: “To our officers at the Harbor tonight: Protect each other and don't fall into the trap that they are only kids. Some are criminals! Keep the current policies and Consent Decree in mind. If ordered to arrest put the name of the on-scene Commander in all reporting.”

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President Mancuso has been vilified on social media and news outlets for using the word “criminals” in relation to these youths. As the president of the Baltimore Retired Police Benevolent Association, I stand behind his terminology. Anyone who works in Baltimore (and in any city) knows that some of these teenagers are criminals. They have records to prove it. Saying that some of them are criminals was not the end of the world. It’s fact. Our violent city is turning tourism away and hurting businesses. Our city is being talked about across the country and numerous surveys and polls rank Baltimore as one of the most violent cities in the country. Anyone who can is moving out of the city. Businesses are closing up.

Public officials cry that “we need to fix the youths” which is just a more politically correct way of saying what Mr. Mancuso said. However, maybe what we need to fix is the adults. Why has no money been allocated to re-open youth centers? Why has no money been allocated to open businesses that cater to the young? Some of these kids are criminals, but that only means we have to address the reasons they become criminals, not allow them to become criminals in the first place by creating havoc on the streets.

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Daryl Buhrman, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Retired Police Benevolent Association.

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