Community walks for Raven Wyatt
It was a show of force and another wake up call.
A routine community cop walk (pictures here by the Baltimore Sun's Gene Sweeney Jr.), scheduled a year ago, attracted more than a 100 participants from several city neighborhoods Wednesday night. The place: Carrollton Ridge in Southwest Baltimore. The reason: the shooting last week of Raven Wyatt, a 5-year-old girl caught in the crossfire of a dispute and the latest symbol of Baltimore's violence.
Here's what a tragedy brings: the mayor, the police commissioner, the fire chief, the heads of public works, recreation and health. The NAACP and the Guardian Angels showed. When the chief trash enforcer spotted three abandoned trash bags, he immediately called it in and got someone to take them away. When a 5-year-old boy expressed interest in a summer rec program, the director was there to sign him up. When a woman complained about police response, the commissioner was there to listen.
The head of the Carrollton Ridge association, Connie Fowler, repeated to everyone who would listen that this was a scheduled walk, planned before the little girl was shot and remains clinging to life at Johns Hopkins, and that while she was grateful for the outpouring, she would like to see this showing on every excursion. A walk without a tragedy as a backdrop draws perhaps seven people from her community and a smattering of others from beyond.
I thinks it's great that so many people showed for the walk and managed to shut down streets as they paraded through, talking to residents and kids who spilled from cramped rowhouses to snap pictures of the mayor. City officials signed up dozens of people to go to rec centers or help at the community association meetings, but it remains to be seen whether the people follow through.
The community walks are great and the mayor and her department heads can't be at each one, and I don't begrudge them for coming out after a little girl is shot. And to be fair, the mayor and police commissioner go on a lot of walks that don't draw media attention. The groundwork invested, now it's time for residents to stand up and take their community back.
Just 20 minutes before Mayor Sheila Dixon pulled up to the rec center at Pulaski and Ashton streets, city cops boxed in a car just up the street and searched it and its occupants for drugs. The idea is to get people involved, and as Jack Baker, a community leader from South Baltimore told the crowd, "We want this community to heal."
At a table, children from the rec center displayed get-well cards to Raven. "Get well soon," one said. "Feel better Raven," said another. "Everyone is praying for your total healing," said a third.
Away from the neighborhood, questions are still being asked about how the suspect, a 17-year-old with a long juvenile record who officials say cut off his home monitoring bracelet to join a gun fight, was allowed to serve his sentence at home instead of behind bars.
"No one wants to accept responsibility," said the city NAACP's vice president, Josephy Armstead. "That boy should never have been on the street."