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After Third Homicide, Questions About Baltimore Safe Streets

Since the January 2021 killing of one of Baltimore's best known violence prevention workers, two more dispute mediators from the city's long-running Safe Streets program have been killed, most recently DaShawn McGrier this past January, The Trace reports. The killings mark a dire turn in Baltimore violence, said Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University. "Something has changed out there," Webster said. "It used to be that no one would dare shoot at a Safe Streets worker.”

McGrier, 29, who had only recently begun working for Safe Streets, was gunned down alongside close friends in a triple homicide. His death came a year after the murder of Dante Barksdale, a close friend of Mayor Brandon Scott's and a leading Safe Streets interventionist. This past January was the most violent January in Baltimore in a decade, with 36 homicides. The city has used Safe Streets workers since 2007 as an alternative to heavy policing. The mayor's office is working on passing legislation that would allow workers to wear bullet proof vests, which might have saved McGrier's life. Some workers like Al Fluker, who runs the site where McGrier was killed, point out that they would make members look too much like police. Despite the concerns, during McGrier's memorial Mayor Scott said he had no intention of ending Safe Streets. According to Shantay Jackson from the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the organization prevented 99 conflicts from turning violent. One researcher studying the program questioned whether the strategy needs to be changed. "The city doesn’t have a pulse on what’s going on at the sites,” said Joseph Richardson, a University of Maryland anthropologist. “You have had three people killed. You might want to pump the brakes.”


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