Terrika Johnson, age 4, was lucky last Thursday. The bullet from a shootout that erupted as she walked with her mother and baby sister near the Maryland State Penitentiary did not pierce any vital organs. But a little girl should not need such extreme good fortune to get home safe from a walk.
What should be a guaranteed fact is that the Terrika Johnsons, innocents still learning about the world around them, are owed protection from the thugs and gunmen who would do them harm. The girl's mother, interviewed after she learned that her child would live, said last week was not the first time Terrika had heard gunfire. Just last summer, she had run terrified into the house, screaming, "They're shootin' out there!"
Sadly, East Baltimore is not the only area of the city where children might repeat that call. The gunning down of two women near Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore early on Christmas Day made that painfully obvious. The death of another woman to gunfire, reportedly drug-related, in North Baltimore on Jan. 2, underscores the point: Violence, especially drug violence, is escalating. The city's worsening murder rate, already past the pace of 1991, shows yet another face of the problem.