Recent indiscriminate shootings and violence in Baltimore underscore how fragile our urban fabric is -- and how easily mob terror can replace the rule of law. As hoodlums' bullets keep felling innocent bystanders in front of their homes or work places, the question is whether the community has the courage to fight back or whether we will just throw our hands up in helplessness.
Baltimore City and its citizens have no choice. Unless we fighback, we can kiss goodbye the much-vaunted urban renaissance in the Inner Harbor and neighborhoods. Unless we return a sense of security to our streets and communities, the past decades' exodus of the middle class will accelerate and continue to bleed the city of its tax base, commerce and industry.
We need a turf battle that will pitch the police and law-abidincitizens on one side and the criminal element on the other. That's the only way.
Here is one plan: Designate a major thoroughfare likEdmondson Avenue or North Avenue and reclaim it and the surrounding neighborhoods from drug-pushers and addicts. Through coordinated police action and prosecution, make it clear no drug trafficking in any form will be tolerated and that anyone dealing or purchasing drugs will be hit by the full force of the law -- and community resistance. Ditto for guns. No exceptions.
There is no need to hire out-of-town consultants to study thiplan. All it takes is some sense of urgency among this city's top leaders and a change of bureaucratic priorities. It will not be easy, but unless a stand is taken first in one neighborhood and then in others, the war will be lost.
If Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke or any of his contenders have a betteplan, let's hear it. The mayor keeps congratulating himself on more than 100,000 block watchers, but that network clearly is not working. One of his opponents, William A. Swisher, wistfully talks about his years as state's attorney when Baltimore's narcotics kingpins could be counted in dozens instead of the estimated "20,000," as he put it. Clarence "Du" Burns, the former mayor now seeking his old job, is ducking the issue.
We need action. Baltimore's life depends on it.