Roots of trouble: 'Lost Generation'

October 13, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Scary. Disturbing. Viewers may find those the only words to describe "Finding the Lost Generation," a powerful documentary about crime and kids in Baltimore to air at 9 o'clock tonight on WBFF (Channel 45).

And among the scariest things to contemplate is a remark by a former prison inmate, Norris Davis, who organized an August forum for the Fox 45 News program that included three drug dealers talking about their work.

"Some of what they say is logical," Mr. Davis says.

The program, an outgrowth of a series of Fox 45 reports on crime, drugs and the juvenile court system, documents an environment in which drug dealing seems a predictable choice for many young people. If young people are not involved in it, they are at least surrounded by it and vulnerable. "It's not . . . that you just say, 'Today, I'm going to be a drug dealer.' It comes from the society around them," Mr. Davis said, explaining why his forum sought "to go at the problem from the roots."

For six years, Mr. Davis has been community relations director of the PSI Institute, a Baltimore school that offers computer learning programs for young inner city residents, many of them former drug and other crime offenders.

He says he himself spent a number of years in and out of the justice system for minor crimes, including drug dealing.

In July, after Fox 45 reporter Deborah Weiner aired reports about the fearful environment in which children lived at the Lafayette Homes projects, Mr. Davis approached the TV station with an idea he had been contemplating.

"I didn't know if I could work it, but I wanted to get drug dealers to come on with the community so we could ask them, 'Why are you doing this?' " said Mr. Davis, who credits Kenneth Carter, a teacher at Hamilton Middle School, with organizing the forums.

Mark Pimentel, Fox 45 news director, said the proposal fit well with the station's continuing reports. So the forum was held in August at the PSI Institute, 300 W. Lexington St., opposite Lexington Market.

"It was a chance for us to put all these elements together in one solid show," Mr. Pimentel said.

Among those participating in the forum was an 11-year-old boy named Chauncey, one of the subjects of the affecting July reports on crime.

Also on hand were Judge David Mitchell, the chief of the juvenile court in Baltimore, three former drug dealers and three people who said they currently deal drugs: a woman identified as Short Dog and two teens called Herbert and Jew.

Surprisingly, none sought anonymity, reporter Weiner notes in the program.

Particularly disheartening is their matter-of-fact attitude about their business and apparent indifference to recent incidents in which children have been caught in the cross-fire of warring drug dealers.

And the program strengthens that impression with a wide-ranging summary of crimes involving young people and their fates within the juvenile justice system -- including sobering clips from prison interviews with three stone-eyed teens convicted of murder.

The statistics also seem to show that, while such urban crime is a national problem, Baltimore has more than its share.

For example, 21 percent of murders and 26 percent of aggravated assaults here are committed by juveniles, compared with national averages of 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Few other cities seem to have had as many shootings of innocent youngsters as Baltimore in the past year.

The show also notes, with a list of recent examples, that while its focus is on the city, suburban communities are hardly immune.

One intriguing follow-up to the August forum, included near the end of tonight's show, has reporter Weiner following the drug-dealing youth, Jew, on a job search.

At a car rental place he is disdainful of the $6.25 hourly salary; he canearn $1,000 in a good day dealing drugs. At a hotel, he says he could not bring himself to do menial work such as being a bellhop.

Yet the reporter notes that the young man sees himself as a churchgoer who refuses to deal dope on the Sabbath.

Mr. Davis said that since the taping of the forum in August, he has been approached by a number of people seeking advice or help, including several young people just out of jail.

"What we need is to inform the public, to take a hard-core plunge into these epidemical problems," Mr. Davis said. "People don't xTC know the symptoms of when they're going to be targeted as victims."

'Finding the Lost Generation'

When: Tonight at 9.

) Where: WBFF (Channel 45).

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