Over the past 17 months, not a single person has been killed in East Baltimore’s violent McElderry Park neighborhood, says Baltimore Sun crime blogger Peter Hermann. That is the good news from a Baltimore Health Department study of its Operation Safe Streets program, which uses ex-offenders and counselors to mediate disputes between armed gangs and to mentor youngsters attracted to the street-corner drug trade. The bad news is that nonfatal shootings did not drop as much in McElderry Park as in 31 other high-crime areas.
Daniel Webster, study author and director of research for the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, believes the program is valuable and should continue. It is premeditated, and often retaliatory, killings that he says Operation Safe Streets has prevented. “Four years prior to this program, there was at least one shooting or homicide per month in this area,” Webster said. “Then you go 17 straight months without a single homicide. That’s really kind of amazing. It’s hard for me to fathom that it is by chance or good luck.”