Baltimore's code of silence is thwarting the police

Jack Young, the new Mayor of Baltimore, came out this week with a badly needed message for the city. With nearly two dozen shootings in just the previous week, Mayor Young pleaded with the residents of Baltimore to help the police clamp down on gang violence. And while parts of his message may prove unpopular with some residents, others were quick to applaud him. (CBS Baltimore)

Mayor Jack Young made a passionate plea to members of the community on Wednesday to stop the bloodshed. Mayor Young said during his plea that members of the community should speak up.

“Everybody knows what’s going on, they [are] in your families, and you know what they are doing, turn them in,” he said.

There have been more than a dozen shootings in Baltimore since Monday, and Mayor Young voiced his frustration.

“Everybody wants to say we are not doing anything,” Young said. “But my question is, what are we doing as a community to say enough is enough and to start reporting and turning these people in”?

Some residents responded by saying they call the police with information all the time but it doesn’t help. Others argued that it’s suicidal to “turn them in” and people are understandably afraid.

“People are afraid to speak up,” Kenny Ebron said. “What benefit is it going to help a person to come forward to give information that’s going to jeopardize their family.”

Wednesday evening, there a benefit basketball game at Frederick Douglass High School for one of the city’s latest homicide victims- well-known comedian and athlete Gerald Brown.

I’m not going to pretend that I know what it’s like to live in a neighborhood with a serious gang violence problem. I’ve been fortunate enough never to have been in that position, but I can imagine that it must be daunting. But at the same time, the Mayor makes a very valid point. If you have a son, a nephew, a brother, or even a husband or father, you certainly must know if they’re involved in something they shouldn’t be. If they don’t get up in the morning and go to school or to a job every day, if they are out until all hours of the night and hanging around in dangerous locations, there’s something going on.

The police have anonymous tip lines. You don’t have to be seen sneaking into the police station or talking to a cop on the corner. If you live in the community and you want that community to survive (to say nothing of yourself and your family and friends), there’s only so much you can expect from law enforcement if they’re not getting any help. We’re not even to the halfway mark of 2019 yet and there have been 145 murders in the city. (That number may have ticked upward by the time you read this.)

I’m impressed that the new Mayor is willing to step up and say something that may be politically unpopular in the interest of finally slowing the bleeding a bit. Baltimore hasn’t seen a year with less than 300 murders since 2014. And we’re talking about a city with only a bit more than a half million residents. There American cities more than ten times that size where fewer killings are registered. This is not an impossible hill to climb because it’s being done elsewhere. Baltimore can do better. The city can be made safer, but it will take the cooperation of the citizens along with the willingness of elected officials to make some tough decisions.

Let’s all pray that Mayor Jack Young is the man who can finally bring it all together and begin gaining some ground in the fight against gang violence during his brief time in office. (He’s not running for a full term for himself.) Lord only knows the citizens of Charm City need and deserve some relief.