The light of hope Our view:

Whether Bal­ti­more’s sec­ond Cease­fire week­end stops all killing or not, it rep­re­sents what this city needs

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

As the year 2015 opened, hardly any­one could have pre­dicted that, within a few months, homi­cides in Bal­ti­more City would soar to record lev­els — and re­main there for years. Yet that’s where we again find our­selves to­day. For the third straight time in as many years, the city is all but cer­tain to reg­is­ter more than 300 homi­cides, a fright­ful level of car­nage not seen since the 1990s. Peo­ple are frus­trated, scared, fed up, heart­bro­ken. Three years in, the ac­cel­er­ated pace of killings is be­com­ing the new nor­mal, and any hope that a new po­lice de­ploy­ment strat­egy or shake-up of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem will re­v­erse it has long since faded.

We are at a deadly cross­roads. The tough-on-crime tac­tics that ac­com­pa­nied Bal­ti­more’s last drop be­low 300 yearly homi­cides are now rec­og­nized by nearly ev­ery­one as hav­ing come at an un­sup­port­able cost. We should not go down that path again. The al­ter­na­tive we are be­ing of­fered — a dif­fi­cult re­form process for the Po­lice Depart­ment and a holis­tic ef­fort to im­prove the eco­nomic, ed­u­ca­tional and health prospects for Bal­ti­more’s res­i­dents — may well be the nec­es­sary an­swer, but it isn’t quick-act­ing. Must we lose a gen­er­a­tion to vi­o­lence while the painstak­ing process of un­do­ing past sins — po­lice bru­tal­ity, seg­re­ga­tion and eco­nomic apartheid — slowly takes ef­fect?

We can­not let our elected lead­ers off the hook. There is more that can be done, whether it’s ex­pand­ing proven pro­grams like Safe Streets or ex­er­cis­ing the po­lit­i­cal will to take off the ta­ble for col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing the Po­lice Depart­ment’s dis­as­trous shift sched­ule.

But the public has a role to play, too. The most heart­en­ing thing we’ve seen is the re­turn of the grass­roots-led Bal­ti­more Cease­fire. The last one, in Au­gust, may not have suc­ceeded in pre­vent­ing any­one from be­ing killed that week­end, and the one sched­uled for this Fri­day through Sun­day may not ei­ther. But the events kin­dle a sense that we are not pow­er­less. The silent, no longer scared ma­jor­ity can, as or­ga­nizer Er­ricka Bridge­ford put it, turn "on the lights, lit­tle by lit­tle." The deadly cul­ture of vi­o­lence and re­venge that has gripped Bal­ti­more for gen­er­a­tions can’t be changed by new po­lice tac­tics, only by the peo­ple of this city stand­ing to­gether to re­ject it. Cease­fire is about fos­ter­ing the hope that it’s pos­si­ble. Hope alone won’t stop the killing, but we will never stop the killing with­out it.

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