Plan targets tension in Southern High's environs

November 23, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

In an attempt to quell escalating tensions and after-school brawls in the Federal Hill area, city and state officials plan to step up bus service and police protection at Southern High School.

Neighborhood leaders and elected officials met yesterday with school system, Police Department and Mass Transit Administration officials to come up with strategies to halt the violence among teen-agers in the streets near Baltimore's Cross Street Market.

Last Wednesday, a 14-year-old Southern High School student was shot with a BB gun at Cross and William streets, about a half-block from the public market. His alleged attackers were five students from the same school.

The shooting was the latest in a series of rough after-school fights that have frightened merchants and residents in the neighborhood.

A mechanic at Federal Motors on Covington Street was pelted with bottles and rocks by high school students two weeks ago. The head of the Federal Hill civic association tried to break up a fight, only to be chased by the teen-agers. And merchants complain that throngs of students shove each other against store windows and jostle shoppers in the streets.

"The whole thing has just snowballed," said state Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Democrat whose district includes South Baltimore and who has an office at Light and Montgomery streets. "We have students milling through the neighborhood during the daytime, when they're supposed to be in school, and some of the elderly people are terrified."

Mr. Della and other elected officials representing the neighborhood left yesterday's 2 1/2 -hour meeting convinced that some immediate changes will help halt the violence.

Representatives of the Mass Transit Administration promised to provide at least one additional bus at the end of the school day. MTA also is considering additional bus service directly to the school, at 1100 Covington Street, said Todd Spangler, an MTA spokesman.

Many of Southern's 1,560 students board buses at the school and at the corner of Cross and Light streets, several blocks from the school.

"You have about 1,500 kids converging on bus stops and they're going in different directions," said Sonny Morstein, a jeweler on Light Street and president of the South Baltimore Business Association.

"There's frequently pushing and shoving. It gets like a combat zone down here."

Representatives of the Police Department promised at the meeting to step up patrols before and after school. City school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey promised to look into a limit on students with disciplinary problems who are sent to Southern.

Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, a Southern graduate, says he plans to introduce an ordinance requiring students to wear their identification tags to and from school each day.

"That way, if police are patrolling, they can determine if it's a student or outsider," he said.

Shop owners, parents, students and elected officials expressed hope yesterday that a joint effort will halt the after-school fights. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for the night of Dec. 7 at Southern High School.

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