Last week, the number of homicides in Baltimore surpassed 200, making 2017 a record-setting year for violence on the city’s streets.
As the body count rises, the police department has reassigned 150 officers to the city’s most dangerous areas, but is still struggling to curb the bloodshed amid internal turmoil and mounting criticism. Mayor Catherine Pugh said she’s developed a plan to stop the violence, but hasn’t yet made it public.
In the meantime, Baltimore residents are taking matters into their own hands, proposing a 72-hour cease fire that would go into effect Friday and last at least through Sunday.
“NOBODY KILL ANYBODY”
Erricka Bridgeford, a professional conflict mediator in Baltimore, is one of the organizers of the cease-fire, whose motto is “Nobody Kill Anybody.”
Bridgeford says no individual or organization alone has taken credit for the event, and that’s intentional: That way, she said, it belongs to every single Baltimore resident.
The idea is to persuade shooters to put down their guns for three whole days, and remember what it feels like to make a positive decision for themselves, and for their city.
“We understand that this is not what normal should be, and we deserve something better,” Bridgeford said. “Looking at each other and saying, ‘We deserve peace, for three whole days’ — that’s powerful.”
Bridgeford is no stranger to the effect of violence on communities: She first saw someone shot and killed when she was just 12 years old.
“I heard shots that woke me up out of my sleep (when) my friend Mike was shot. I saw him on the blacktop, I heard him crying not to let him die,” she said. “I went to funerals all through high school.”
She’s lost friends and cousins to gunshots, she said. “So many cousins.”
OPPOSITION TO VIOLENCE THROUGH ADVERTISING
As James Evans, a Baltimore-based advertising executive, watched the body count in Baltimore skyrocket earlier this year, he thought he might be able to help. How? By reaching the unreachable: those most likely to pick up a gun and pull the trigger.
Evans’ firm, Illume, is behind the “Stop Shooting, Start Living” slogan used by a local chapter of the community-based anti-violence organization Safe Streets. Now, he’s trying to combat the bloodshed with an advertising campaign.
As he does with any campaign, Evans said he treats his anti-violence pitch like a product he’s selling. He said he’s conducted focus groups with victims, active shooters and drug…