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Maryland

Baltimore Joins National Conversation On Youth Violence Prevention

P. Kenneth Burns
/
WYPR

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday the city will develop a strategy to combat youth violence with help from President Obama’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, also known as The Forum.

The Forum is a network of communities and federal agencies that share ideas on combating youth violence.  Baltimore was invited to join this year.

Rawlings-Blake said the city has “made great strides” to keep young people safe with  better schools, more recreational programs and summer jobs.

But even with those strides, she said, “it is important that we not get complacent.”

While the city experienced an overall drop in crime last year, the mayor said 15 juveniles were murdered and many more young people were victims or perpetrators of violent crime.

She said the City Health Department and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice will work with other members of The Forum to come up with a “Baltimore centric” plan to address youth violence.

Health Commissioner Leana Wen said youth violence should be treated as a public health issue as well as a criminal justice issue.

“I want us to think about violence as we do flu or the measles,” Wen said. “It’s something that’s infectious, it’s spread from person to person; it causes fear; it wreaks havoc, but just the same, it’s something that can be prevented; it’s something that can be treated.”

She recalled treating a 17-year-old who died of gunshot wounds when she was an emergency room physician. The teen’s medical record - a hand injury from punching someone, an earlier gunshot wound and a history of mental illness and substance abuse - demonstrated there were several opportunities to intervene.

“The question we have to ask is when was the right time to intervene.” she said. “Not only was it the right time to intervene in the ER, but what about before that?”

The announcement comes as National Youth Violence Prevention Week, March 23-27, nears.

Officials will spend next week highlighting what has been done to address the issue; including the mayor’s “Call to Action to End African American Homicides” taking place March 24 at the Empowerment Temple A.M.E. Church in Northwest Baltimore and a youth forum at Mondawmin Mall scheduled for March 26.