City officials and members of the city’s flagship violence-intervention program, Safe Streets, have gone more than a year without a homicide in the area where their Penn North site is located.

It’s been 478 days since a person has died at the hands of another. The public health initiative based in targeted areas throughout Baltimore has successfully reduced shootings and homicides, despite “relatively modest” costs to the city and challenges in staffing, The Baltimore Banner previously reported.

The Penn North site has shown to be another proven example of the work of Safe Streets, leaders said Wednesday at the site’s location at 605 Baker St. Penn North’s catchment area spans roughly six blocks. Safe Streets covers 2.9 miles.

Penn North and three other Safe Streets sites in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, Cherry Hill and Sandtown-Winchester are managed by Catholic Charities. Safe Streets has 10 locations in some of Baltimore’s most dangerous neighborhoods, including Belair-Edison, Belvedere and Cherry Hill, with the oldest site in McElderry Park since in 2007.

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Penn North, however, has made a visible impact, with data showing that the last homicide occurred in its catchment zone on Nov. 14, 2022. Site coordinator Dennis Wise and violence prevention coordinator, Wayne Brewton said forming relationships with the community made this work possible.

“This is so special for us to recognize, because nine years ago, this was the site for the scene of the Freddie Gray uprising. To the world, this was seen as a community that was drug infested, poverty-ridden and a lack of resources and opportunities,” Brewton said.

“So, we’re out here winning these guys’ confidence to help stop them from killing each other in what was seen as one of the worst areas in the city just four years ago,” he added.

In January, Baltimore had one of the least violent months in the city in years. And last year, shootings were down from 2022, which was the first year with fewer than 300 homicides since Gray’s death in April 2015.

Year-to-date, Baltimore has recorded a total of 36 homicides, which is down from 43 homicides from the same time last year, according to police. Nonfatal shootings are down from 82 to 75 from March of last year.

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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said that violence is a public health issue. He was elated to celebrate the accomplishments of the Safe Streets Penn North team in effectively mediating conflicts in the area.

Scott also said he remembers being present in 2015 during the Freddie Gray riots when the area was the epicenter of Baltimore’s unrest. “This work makes a difference every day every night, every minute, every second, which is why am I mentioned recently to continue in furthering the work.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott speaks to a crowd gathered to commemorate over a year with no homicides within the Safe Streets Penn North site’s coverage area, in front of the site managed by Catholic Charities, on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 in Baltimore, MD. (Wesley Lapointe / for The Baltimore Banner) (Wesley Lapointe/The Baltimore Banner)

Citing the importance of what it means to strengthen the community through intervention, Scott added that he is not concerned with naysayers of the Safe Streets initiative.

“We will fight for this program, tooth and nail, to the end because we know it works,” Scott said. “We don’t have to argue with folks who don’t understand. Women and men lie, but numbers don’t. Four-hundred-seventy-eight days in Penn North without a homicide is something remarkable. Here’s to another 478 days, not just here, but building these relationships across the city.”

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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