Putting community in policing

PULSE: Volunteers turn out to give East Baltimore neighbors a sense of support and security.

May 31, 1999

A FEW YEARS AGO, Samuel T. Redd Jr. says, he noticed a change in his family's mortuary business. "Four days out of a seven-day week," he says, "you'd see nothing but kids between the ages of 14 and 25 in the funeral home, dead." The young mourners came around so regularly they began to look familiar. Over time, some became the faces in the caskets.

That's when Mr. Redd, director of People United to Live in a Safe Environment (PULSE), got angry. "This is everybody's problem," he says. "You can no longer go in your house, close the doors, close the blinds, sit in the living room and say, `This isn't my problem.' "

PULSE, an East Baltimore crime prevention group funded by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and organized through local churches, trains volunteers to take neighborhood block watch to a higher level. Its goal is not only to help residents patrol their streets, but to let troubled youths know the church is open to show them a better way. "You have to show them there's strength, that people are coming together to eliminate their activity," he says.

In about five years, the group has had more than 300 volunteers, Mr. Redd estimates. About 180 are currently active. Hopkins security oversees a 28-hour training program that includes resolving conflicts, identifying suspects and testifying in court. Graduates receive bright yellow baseball caps, shirts and jackets and two-way radios. They work at neighborhood events and during church to watch streets and escort parishioners. Volunteers patrol school areas as students come and go, educate seniors about scam artists and fingerprint children at community fairs. At a recent neighborhood father-son breakfast in an elementary school, PULSE volunteers turned out, too. "No child sat alone that day," he says.

PULSE and city police plan to team up with East Baltimore residents to form Citizens on Patrol groups. PULSE, which is an offshoot of Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore, draws on the strength of local churches. Community policing, with a presence from the clergy, is essential to uplift neighborhoods.

People must demand change, Mr. Redd says. "Don't just throw your hands up. Don't ever just give up your neighborhood."

He and PULSE deserve the community's thanks and support for stepping in where others fear to and saying "enough."

Bright Lights spotlights people who make a difference in the quality of life in this area. It appears periodically in this column.

Pub Date: 5/31/99

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