In Baltimore, a success story in the war on gang violence

I sometimes fall victim to my own rather gloomy attitude about the current state of crime in the United States, particularly when it comes to some of the nation’s larger cities like Baltimore. I’ve found myself wondering more than once when I might finally have some good news to talk about for a change. This weekend my wish was answered. It’s not a happy story by any means, nor does it have a happy ending. But if nothing else it holds the promise for progress in the future. Before we begin, take a look at this picture.

That’s three year old McKenzie Elliott. Back in August of 2014 she was playing outside her home in Baltimore when her family suddenly experienced something worse than most of us could ever imagine. A gun battle between two gangs broke out down the street and faster than anyone could react, McKenzie was struck and killed by a stray bullet.

After that, pretty much nothing happened for years. It was just one more of many murders in an area plagued by gang violence. But now, after a protracted investigation and a lot of law enforcement work, more than half a dozen members and leaders of one of Baltimore’s many gangs have been arrested and will face charges. (CBS local)

The murder of McKenzie Elliott rocked all of Baltimore, and nearly three years later, a local gang is now linked to the toddler’s killing.

The “Old York Money Gang” is accused of terrorizing the same neighborhood Elliott lived in.

Authorities say the gang was known for murder, robbery, drugs, and doing whatever they needed to protect their territory.

Some say they’ve been hesitant for years to speak out. Afraid of what would happen next.

It took a lot for people in the neighborhood to finally assist the cops in bringing a case against these seven gang members, but they finally did. Residents interviewed for the CBS story were quite clear in saying that most folks are simply too afraid of the gangs to speak up.

“It’s not comfortable, but we gotta live somewhere,” said one Waverly resident who didn’t want to be identified. “They scared to get hurt, scared someone is going to do something to them.”

It’s a mindset that allows a gang like OYMG to take control.

“They will remind you of where the children go to school, of where your wife or husband may work,” said Avendorph.

Both the residents and the cops are being realistic in terms of their expectations. This doesn’t mean that the “Old York Money Gang” is completely broken and will disappear overnight. As one witness said, “it’s just a matter of time before someone comes in and fills the void.” But it’s a start. And if nothing else, it might show the rest of the residents who live in fear of these thugs that there actually can be some justice for the dead.

And who knows? If enough people start speaking up and actually helping the police instead of remaining silent, perhaps the iron hold of the gangs on these neighborhoods could eventually be broken. They’re kept in business by their historic success in keeping everyone else quiet out of fear of them. If you can take that insurance policy away, life would be a lot harder for the gangs. It may not be much of a hope, but at least it’s something.