Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When Will the Violence in Baltimore End?

The Baltimore Sun reports that:

Hours after Baltimore's mayor huddled with police officials to discuss the recent spike in violence, two more people were killed Monday — making May the city's deadliest month since 1999.

The two homicides increased this month's total to 35. There have been 108 homicides across the city this year...

In addition to the homicides, eight other people were shot since late Sunday and another three overnight Monday, bringing the number of shootings over the three-day holiday weekend to 32. Among them was a 9-year-old boy shot in the leg in the 2900 block of Arunah Ave. in Southwest Baltimore. Police did not identify any of victims or release information about any potential suspects or motives...

Batts last week said police are struggling to stop violence in West Baltimore, where officers have been routinely surrounded by dozens of people, video cameras and hostility while performing basic police work since the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody. The Western District, the site of Gray's arrest and the epicenter of the protests and rioting that followed his death, has seen the majority of the city's recent shootings and homicides, which are coming faster than they have in eight years.
When will the violence in Baltimore and other inner cities finally end? Aside from effective law enforcement strategies and the imposition of a curfew for children under 18 years old, there are other actions that must be taken.  The violence will end when real black men stand up and take back our communities. Marches and vigils are good for raising awareness. However, they are not enough. As other communities have done, black community groups must receive professional martial arts and firearms training. We must patrol and protect our neighborhoods against enemies within and without. We cannot allow a small minority of criminals to terrorize our communities. We cannot just proclaim that black lives matter. We must demonstrate to the world through our actions that black lives matter.

The violence will end when more professional and working class black men return to the hood and serve as mentors to at-risk youth. The erosion of the two parent household is a contributing factor to the violence. Too often, when the father are gone, many of our young men are without proper guidance and the streets become their daddy. We must provide that guidance. We must be role models that they need.

The violence will end when the politicians renew the fight to end poverty. We must invest in summer jobs programs and recreation centers. If our youth have an opportunity to earn decent wages working legitimate jobs, involvement in the violent drug trade will be less likely. In addition, if our youth are preoccupied playing sports at recreation centers, they will have less time to be involved in crime and violence.

The violence will end when we invest in more schools and less prisons. As reported in Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore city schools CEO Gregory Thorton "warned that at least 120 positions and about 100 people would be eliminated this year as he closed a $108 million gap in the fiscal year 2016 budget, which begins July 1." In addition, "he has also said that more than 200 educators and staff in the district's “surplus” pool — meaning they are still paid by the school system but don't have permanent placements — would be cut." Despite financial difficulties, somehow the City has $30 million to build a new juvenile jail. The Baltimore Sun also reports that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan "decided to take $68 million that lawmakers set aside for schools and use it to shore up the state's pension system instead — disappointing school officials in Baltimore and other large districts around the state." This is completely unacceptable. The failure to adequately fund our schools only exacerbates the violence that plagues Baltimore. We must demand better from our politicians.

The violence will end when we end the war on drugs. The war on drugs perpetuates mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders. Mass incarceration further destabilizes black families and makes communities less safe. We must decriminalize drugs and address drug addiction as a health issue.  Most of the violence is fueled by the illegal drug trade. If drugs were legal, there would be less violence associated with the trade. The drug trade should be regulated and controlled just like the alcohol and cigarettes trade.  Instead of using church money for airplanes, mansions and magnificent church buildings, our churches must use their resources to fight drug addiction and violence in Baltimore.

The violence will end when community groups, churches and local politicians bring drug cartels and gangs to the negotiation table. If peace can be achieved in Ireland and South Africa, it be achieved in Baltimore.

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