I attended a Youth Violence Forum hosted in downtown Baltimore on Tuesday. The forum was headlined by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Vice Deputy of Baltimore City Police Department, and Chief Goodman – who is the head of the School Resource Officer Division. The intent of this event was to allow today’s youth an opportunity to speak directly to the Mayor and her staff and raise concerns that they have in their communities and schools.
During the course of the forum, not only did those grade school students ask pointed questions but they offered reasonable suggestions on how to solve some problems in the city. The Mayor and her co-attendees took some notes, but ultimately most of those ideas will never be heard in a meeting room, much less make it to a pilot program, due to the city’s budgetary woes.
I had a conversation with one of the police department heads at the event. I inquired about what the policy was for School Resource Officers to attend and secure after school activities. I was informed that they’re only required to patrol Basketball and Football games because there’s a higher likelihood of something happening at those events. Budget cuts don’t allow for officers to be paid overtime to staff the other events. It appears that track athletes, baseball players and other sporting events are left vulnerable with the lack of security because there is typically lower attendance. I may be a little biased about the allocation of resources with the history of the circumstances surrounding my injury, so forgive me. As a businessman, I understand the statistics and that you have to use limited resources where they have the most effective outcomes; but as a humanitarian, I also have to ask: what is more important than the safety of our youth – placed in high-risk situations – when all they want to do is compete and bolster their résumés for college and job applications?
One young man revealed to us that he and his mother were homeless, which resulted in him turning to crime to survive. He was not proud of the things he had to do, but he did them to support his family. He has since been able to get back on his feet and live modestly. What this young man had to turn to as a result of financial hardship is something that we as a foundation would like to prevent, if given the power to help. With the possibility of families going into bankruptcy because of the significant loss of income from a primary source due to injury, recovery, and physical/mental rehabilitation, many people can face not only financial, but moral crises. As a foundation, we donate supplemental income to families in an attempt to keep families afloat so such drastic measures as turning to crime after losing a home, as happened to the young man above, need not happen to those who experience similar situations when there’s nowhere else to turn.