By Devin Bartolotta

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Following the most violent start to the year in Baltimore City history, Mayor Catherine Pugh is calling on the community to help end the almost daily homicides.

Many at Saturday morning’s meeting agreed that keeping young people busy and out of trouble is at the top of the priority list.

Community members, police and elected officials came together to demand a safer Baltimore.

“Drug dealers are recruiting our young people as early as 8 years old,” said Pugh.

Violent crime in the City is up 17 percent from last year’s record-setting rate.

“We’re at a point where we have 150 murders. That’s unacceptable at any point in our city,” said Councilman Leon Pinkett. “This is an all-hands-on-deck scenario. Every resource possible, every community member possible, we all have to be engaged and vigilant in how we can curb this violence that’s in our streets.”

Mayor Pugh is calling on Baltimore to get involved.

“All of us are focused on how we reduce crime and make sure all of our children are engaged this summer,” she said.

One way to curb violence is through youth employment.

Councilman Brandon Scott says programs like YouthWorks set kids up for long-term success.

“The first thing is that 5 years from now we have less violence. But also 5 years from now these young people that are getting involved in these programs are in a better place,” Scott said. “They’re doing better in education, they’re better in school, they have employment, their families are better.”

There were plenty of other ideas that came up at the meeting. Mayor Pugh said she sees the squeegee kids that clean windshields in the City as entrepreneurs and hopes they can organize pop-up car washes throughout the summer.

YouthWorks plans to employ at least 8,000 young people in the City this summer.

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