As the school year approaches an end with a disturbing rise in youth gun violence, Mayor Brandon Scott, city officials and members of the violence-intervention program Safe Streets are promoting the third annual Safe Summer event series and calling for more community participation.
“Safe Summer is about providing our residents — youth and adults alike — outlets for fun and opportunity during the summer months in efforts to keep our neighborhoods peaceful and a part of our Baltimore community violence-intervention ecosystem,” Scott said at the news conference.
“This city will continue to bring everything to the table to ensure that everyone can feel safe and connected, not just during the summer months but 365 days a year,” he added.
Safe Streets centers will hold events at least once a month through September, hosting cookouts, giveaways and concerts that are free to the public.
A yearslong Johns Hopkins University report from March found that Safe Streets outposts reduced nearby homicides and nonfatal shootings by an average of 16% to 23%. The city has Safe Streets sites in 10 of its most dangerous neighborhoods, each staffed by violence interrupters who seek out and defuse conflicts.
Marty Henson, a program manager at LifeBridge Health Center for Hope, stressed the importance of community engagement as the city is living through a “dark time.”
“So until we lean in from a place of love and assist everyone from a place of love, we are going to continue to struggle with this,” he said.
These summer events do not conflict with the city’s curfew that took effect this week, Scott said. Children younger than 14 cannot be out between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekends and holidays, while children 14 to 16 are required to be home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Scott said there were no major incidents involving teens during the first night of the curfew.
“We know people got the message, and we’re gonna continue to work each and every day around curfew,” he said.
The city is betting on the event series as one of the initiatives that will address the rise of gun violence among teenagers. Scott recently announced new summer programming, which the city says it created after surveying 300 students from various schools and recreational centers. It includes events such as Bmore This Summer, a party with basketball, skating, swimming, live entertainment, food and music scheduled for Sunday at Rash Field.
The city will try to engage teens who haven’t shown interest in rec centers through agencies such as the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, Scott said. Officials will also try to reach young people who have dropped out of school.
“I know that I’ll be going door to door with principals and some folks this summer to get kids who have dropped out to come back into school,” he said.