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Mother of slain Baltimore teen raises concerns about security near school campuses, during town hall on youth gun violence

City, school and faith leaders gathered at the University of Baltimore Thursday to explore solutions for the recent uptick in gun violence among the city’s youth. WYPR’s news partner, the Baltimore Banner, co-hosted the discussion with WJZ-TV.

As a victim of gun violence, attending the town hall was personal for Michelle Hines.

Two months ago, her son, Izaiah Carter, 16, was shot in the head near Patterson High School, where he was a student. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Hines expressed the concern many parents share regarding the need for greater school security. “How can I know that when my children go to high school they're going to be safe? How do I know that an adult isn't going to be able to get to their campus?”

Authorities arrested and apprehended Roger Mendoza, 23, in Texas where he fled. They say he fired a round into Izaiah’s head on Mar. 6. This year alone, 73 minors have been shot and 19 have died, according to police.

“Where is the security? Why not outsource? Why isn't there people patrolling with all these egregious acts?” Hines asked.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison extended his condolences and welcomed the idea of increasing patrols around schools.

“Baltimore City Schools has its own police department that has jurisdiction on the campuses,” said Harrison. “The police department has jurisdiction on the campus as well. So we work well together,” he added.

“But that's a good point that you bring up. We could maybe think about adding another layer of security beyond what the city police [and] school police can do. But it's always about resources.”

Alison Perkins-Cohen, chief of staff for Baltimore City Schools and a panelist, also responded. She said the school system thinks of outsourcing as building strong relationships with students.

“We’ve been able to avert some situations,” said Perkins-Cohen. ”We've recovered unfortunately 15 weapons in schools. Those were from young people talking to one of our school police officers, or an adult in the school, or one of their friends, who then tells us so that we can keep students safe.”

Hines pushed the panelists to tailor their messaging and attention towards active parents.

“Unlike the other parents who aren’t there, I'm there,” she explained. “Instead of plans, instead of initiatives, what is the real action? How can I be involved? Because there are terrible parents here. Stop talking to them. They don't care. Talk to us, because we're here, we care, we show up.”

Mayor Brandon Scott said there are many ways for parents to engage, including through projects his administration is leading on.

“The Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement was already involved in developing this school based violence intervention work that we’re doing,” said Scott.

“We're also doing what we call Safe Passage, working with schools to make sure we have actual adults from the community helping with that. And in fact, the unfortunate murder of Isaiah actually helped us in ways we would never have imagined. It forced us to do these things at a much faster rate,” he said.

But for Michelle Hines, none of these approaches are happening fast enough.

“I see my son's picture everywhere,” Hines said in an interview with WYPR. “He became a statistic. Couple of months ago, he was my reality, my everything. And now he is a memory. This is not fair, and I'm not satisfied with these answers.”

She says she will continue advocating for change. Meanwhile, the mayor says he will roll out detailed plans for youth programming next week.

Read more from our partners at The Baltimore Banner here: ‘This is our issue’: Baltimore teens ask to be heard in discussions about gun violence

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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