“Why Not ‘Peace Room?'” — Differing Approaches to Curbing Baltimore Violence

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Violence has spiked in Baltimore in the months following the death of Freddie Gray.
Violence has spiked in Baltimore in the months following the death of Freddie Gray.

Violence in Baltimore returns to the national conversation with an Associated Press article that highlights different reactions to the city’s elevated homicide rate.

Representing one approach is the Kids Safe Zone, a children’s center in West Baltimore founded by Ericka Alston after April protests and open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.. The three rules are: “Sign in, clean up after yourself, and read for 15 minutes before playing.”

It was important to Alston to keep the rules, and experiences, positive. AP reports that she originally considered a list of negatives, like “no fighting,” but decided against it.

“I said to myself: ‘If we don’t post those things, they won’t think about those things,'” Alston said. “We hug them. We say positive things to them. We let them know how special they are.”

Cast as the other approach is the Baltimore Police Department’s new “war room,” from which the city’s homicide unit (in collaboration with the FBI, the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, and others) organize and execute actions to stifle 25-30 “war board targets” and 238 “top trigger-pullers.”

Alston takes issue with the “terminology of war” which she believes may further heighten tensions between police and the community.

In the accompanying video piece, Munir Bahar, founder of grassroots organization 300 Men March, appears to take no issue with the term. “It’s a life-and-death situtation, and that is war,” he said. 300 Men March pays young black men in the city to train as leaders and organizes a weekly community bike ride. They cover posters and T-shirts with their blunt message, “We must stop killing each other.”



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