By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A crackdown on Baltimore’s recent surge of violence takes a wild turn with two arrests involving one of the city’s anti-violence programs.

Rick Ritter has more on Baltimore’s Safe Streets program that’s now taking some heavy hits.

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The grant-funded program hires ex-convicts to help stem crime across the city but, as history shows, sometimes it’s the exact opposite.

A community is in disbelief

“I am. I’m shocked,” said Tawanda McGee.

Once considered a safe haven for east Baltimore is now under heavy fire.

“To have Safe Streets go through this kind of tragedy, it’s really tough,” McGee said. “Really is.”

Early Monday morning, an investigation into an armed robbery led police to the 23-hundred block of East Monument Street. There, several suspects were arrested, including two members of Baltimore’s Safe Streets program, a group that uses ex-offenders to help reduce violence across the city.

Police say they raided the Safe Streets offices on East Monument Street and found a stash of weapons and drugs—at least seven guns, ammo and heroin—forcing the Health Department to suspend east Baltimore’s program indefinitely.

“We do know that individuals who have offended before that there is a risk for re-offense, as well,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

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McGee lives around the corner from the anti-violence group.

“Safe Streets is supposed to be protecting the neighborhood,” she said.

She calls the news discouraging and says she’s lost faith in the group.

With four locations across the city, Safe Streets already has criminal allegations against employees dating back to 2010, 2013 and now.

“Three times is too much,” said Carl Stokes, Baltimore City Council.

Councilman Stokes says the program needs to do a better job of vetting staff on a regular basis—especially with a recent surge of violence.

“They have to continue to check to make sure no one is falling off the wagon,” Stokes said.

Making sure there’s no more setbacks in a city that can’t afford any more violence.

The two employees were terminated from their jobs and are facing drug charges. Police say several confirmed BGF gang members were also some of those arrested.

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Safe Streets is a grant-funded program. Officials say the group mediated 880 conflicts in Baltimore last year—more than 80& of which were likely to result in gang violence.

Rick Ritter