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Young expects Baltimore businesses to back youth initiatives

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he is optimistic businesses will support initiatives to divert city youth from crime and controversial activities that business leaders say contribute to safety concerns downtown.

Roughly a month after meeting with principals of some of the city’s most prominent enterprises, Young said Wednesday that the city has not secured a set dollar amount to fund youth initiatives, including his plan to prevent problems with the so-called squeegee kids. Young met with business executives, property owners and commercial real estate professionals in late September to discuss youth behaviors that they say hurt the city’s traditional central business district.

“Businesses have worked with us to provide some of the funding … they said they will work with us,” Young said. “This is (support) for a whole host of things; it isn’t just about squeegee (kids). It’s about making sure that we have funding in place for our youth.”

Businesses, particularly those downtown, have increasingly voiced concerns about crime and quality of life issues in the area. For more than two years, property owners and office tenants downtown have repeatedly told City Hall officials that their employees feel unsafe, with some even going so far as to say that they’re afraid to leave their office buildings.

Complaints from businesses concerned about security have steadily grown in the years since the April 2015 riots as violent crime, particularly homicides and shootings, surged.

Baltimore’s homicide rate has spiked since 2015, when 342 people in the city of roughly 615,000 were killed. As of Oct. 31 this year, there were 269 homicides, according to police data.

According to Baltimore police data, officers each year handle reports of hundreds of robberies, rapes, assaults, shootings and homicides in downtown Baltimore. As of Oct. 31 this year, police had handled 685 reports of crimes in the downtown area.

As frustration with stubborn crime levels simmered, controversy over the city’s squeegee kids flared.

Primarily young men, the squeegee “kids” wash windshields without drivers’ consent, slowing traffic and often acting aggressively when motorists don’t have money to give them.

Residents who have voiced support for the largely youths call the complaints, which come primarily from suburban commuters and commercial interests, thinly veiled racism.

Young’s meeting with business leaders in late September came at the request of T. Rowe Price CEO William Stromberg, who sent an email to the mayor, City Council President Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison requesting a meeting about the squeegee kids, who he said bothered residents, employees and businesses.


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