New Catholic Charities-operated program aimed at reducing violence in West Baltimore

On March 17, 2016, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joined Bill McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities, held a press conference to mark the official opening of the Safe Streets Baltimore location at St. Peter Claver Church, 1526 N. Fremont Ave., in West Baltimore. Speakers also included Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and Imhotep Fatiu, Site Director, Safe Streets Baltimore. Following the press conference, the Safe Streets team hosted a cookout for the community, featuring a live DJ and other family-friendly entertainment.

Safe Streets Baltimore, a program designed to reduce shootings and homicides in areas that are disproportionately affected by gun violence, began operation the previous week, less than one year after the April 2015 unrest that impacted the West Baltimore neighborhood. The program works to mediate disputes and change the perception that violence is a normal or expected result of conflict, by focusing on executing alternative means of conflict resolution. The program is funded by a grant from the Baltimore City Health Department, with additional support from the Abell Foundation and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We are grateful to Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Health Commissioner Wen for partnering with Catholic Charities to launch Safe Streets Baltimore in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood,” said Bill McCarthy. “We are excited to work with our government and community partners to create a safer and healthier Baltimore with greater opportunities for all residents.”

“We know that violence spreads like an infection, but just like infectious diseases, it can be prevented. In neighborhoods across our city, we have seen how Safe Streets is a critical component in stopping this contagion,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “We are thrilled to expand this evidence-based initiative to Sandtown-Winchester to help further reduce homicides, decrease gun violence, and save lives.”

Safe Streets programs have already been implemented in the South Baltimore neighborhood of Cherry Hill and in parts of East Baltimore. In areas where Safe Streets programs are in operation, there has been a reduction in homicides by more than 50 percent, along with a marked decrease in non-lethal gun violence.

Participants in Safe Streets programs also reported that outreach workers assisted them in finding employment, improving their job interviewing skills, obtaining job training and getting into a school or GED program.