Taking back our streets

February 02, 2005|By Steven T. Mitchell

IT'S TIME TO stop letting thugs run Baltimore.

If my language is abrupt, I apologize. If my choice of words offends some people or rubs somebody the wrong way - that's not what I intended.

It's just that I get sick and tired of sitting around (and watching others sit around) while a bunch of predators - thugs and cowards - control and dominate significant pockets of our community.

We've got people living in fear-moms and grandmoms afraid to come out of their homes at night, people hiding their children in corners and away from windows.

Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, girlfriends, wives, children going to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of their loved ones all because some fool, some coward, some thug, decided to take a life. And the kids, they idolize these fools.

We've lost something in our community, something very important that we used to have. We've lost our anger, that sense of rage that would pop up whenever someone would violate us. Nowadays, as a community, we are allowing ourselves to be held hostage as the thugs and the criminals run rampant on our streets - taking lives and destroying families as they leave a path of devastation in their midst.

Thing is, it doesn't have to be that way.

We let somebody come into our block, our community and, as soon as the sun goes down, conduct illegal activities that are so out in the open that they might as well be advertising on TV.

We're frightened to walk to the store or let our kids ride their bikes around the block. Mothers and fathers are terrified when their teenagers go out to a club and have to walk to and from their cars.

But for all the thugs and predators out there, for all the murderers and rapists and thieves and drug dealers, there are more of us than there are of them.

Right here in Baltimore, we have churches in every community, almost on every corner. These churches are filled with strong, decent, caring people. We have community groups, large and small, that work together to help keep their neighborhoods a decent place to live.

We have kids, thousands and thousands of kids, in programs learning to do all kinds of things and going to school all day while the ones that choose to go out and wreak havoc on the community get all of the attention from the media.

We have government agencies that are paid to protect us and provide services for us and, believe it or not, are filled with hard-working, caring people. We have people in all walks of life who care, who can stand up and provide a good example to the young people who choose to look up to them. Add it all up, and we've got ourselves an army.

I don't care if you don't like me. I don't care what political party you belong to, or what color you are. We've all got to work together on this. Everywhere I go around the city, to churches, rallies, vigils, funerals, I keep hearing the same question: What if everybody got together?

Well, you know what? We can.

I'm not just talking about my program or promoting something that I'm trying to do. There are too many people out there already, just promoting their own agendas. Right now, in your neighborhood, in your community, I can guarantee you that there's something positive that you can get involved in when it comes to young people.

Maybe it's something involving your church or your kid's school. Maybe it's a mentoring program or a youth athletic league. Maybe it's just going outside and getting in the face of a kid whom you see heading in the wrong direction.

Don't think you can do that? Well, think back to when you were coming up. People used to do it all the time. And we need to start doing it again. It's our choice, whether we're going to let thugs and punks run our streets. Just remember: There are more of us than there are of them.

Steven T. Mitchell is an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore and president and founder of Take Back The City, Inc.

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