Workshop participants seek an end to violent youth crime in Baltimore

Adults, young people come together to find perspectives, solutions

March 02, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Like so many Baltimore teen-agers, Atlantis Alston knows a peer who has been murdered. Her friend, Tiesha Kelly, knows kids who belong to gangs or sell drugs.

Now they want to know what adults plan to do about it.

Their search for solutions to the violent climate troubling Baltimore led them to an "Urban Adolescent Violence" workshop yesterday at the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center. It was run by David Miller, a former Calverton Middle School teacher who tries to steer kids away from trouble.

"I went to get a better perspective on how adults felt about violence and what they're going to do to get rid of it," said Atlantis, 15, a Frederick Douglass Senior High School sophomore. "I most definitely want to know what Mayor Martin O'Malley plans to do to get rid of some of the violence."

One of O'Malley's biggest campaign promises was to clear 10 open-air drug corners in his first six months of office and to sharply reduce the city's homicide rate, one of the country's highest. This year, 41 people have been killed in Baltimore. Tuesday, an 11-year-old Southwest Baltimore boy was shot and injured in the chin by an unknown assailant.

Statistics from the Baltimore Police Department show that crime is down among minors. But there were 24 youths ages 14 to 17 charged with murder in the city last year.

That's not news to Miller, who has worked with children for the past decade. He knows kids who have been charged with murder -- and many who have lost their lives on Baltimore's streets.

At the workshop, Miller said he gets offended by the notion that poverty leads to crime.

"Raise your hand if you grew up poor," he instructed. About half of the nearly 75 people present responded.

"We have to be the people that we want our young people to be," Miller said. "We have to set good examples. A lot of our children are growing up thinking that violence is natural -- it's a natural way to solve problems."

Miller talked about Baltimore schools, where he said children are often exposed to violence. He spoke about drugs and kids who raise themselves because their mothers are drug addicts.

But he seemed to get the biggest reaction when he showed a slide presentation depicting dozens of walls throughout the city with R.I.P. and the names of children who have been killed.

The slides also included pictures of trash-filled streets and guns, including a pump shotgun owned by a 12-year-old.

Youth violence in Baltimore won't end, Miller said, until adults understand the children's realities and ascertain what leads them to lives of crime.

"We don't need to do more research. We need to effect change," Miller said. "Our young people are crying out for help. But we're in such a hurry to get to our office and lock the door that we're oblivious to it."

Miller answered questions, offered solutions and heard from participants.

Anees Abdul-Rahim, who works with the fathers of kids at St. Bernardine's Head Start, said people spending money to examine youth violence "need to bring young people to the table."

Atlantis and Tiesha agreed.

They said adults needed to go out and actually talk to youths and try to tell them something they can relate to."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.