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May 03, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,sun reporter

Council asked to fund work against gangs A Western High School senior told City Council members last night that gangs have corrupted her 13-year-old cousin, a once-promising student who was arrested this year.

Maria Vismale, 17, wanting to underscore the impact of gang influence on children, addressed a hearing on gang problems held by the council's public safety subcommittee. She spoke on behalf of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a faith-based, nonprofit civic organization.

"He was no longer funny and outgoing. Now he had become a troublesome thug," Vismale said of her cousin.

About a dozen BUILD members pleaded with the committee to budget extra money toward building more recreation centers and providing after-school activities. They say community centers would give children an alternative to joining gangs.

"Unless the City Council and the mayor address this issue by giving massive funds into recreation and after-school programs and opportunities for young people to work, this problem is only going to get worse. And it's a crisis now," said the Rev. Ronald Covington, a leader in BUILD.

BUILD representatives addressed the subcommittee after members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council discussed implementation of its Gang Violence Reduction Plan, which was initiated in November.

The criminal justice council recently received a one-time federal grant of $292,000 to implement programs to help combat the rising influence of the city's gangs.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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