BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A guilty plea that’s raising eyebrows across the state.
Two Black Guerilla Family gang members pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, but prosecutors say the pair conducted gang activity while working out of a “Safe Streets” office.
For years, many have questioned how effective “Safe Streets” is, and this case is a major blow to the program.
According to the Baltimore City Health Department’s website, “Safe Streets also incorporates and emphasizes a strong street outreach component, with outreach workers canvassing neighborhoods and connecting with high-risk youth and young adults during evenings and weekends to diffuse situations and link them to services.”
Prosecutors say Ricky Evans, a/k/a Dorsey, and Shawn Thomas, a/k/a Bucky, sold drugs and held meetings at the “Safe Streets” offices, and even orchestrated murders.
Authorities say Evans – a top leader in the BGF – hid behind his role in the “Safe Streets” program along the 2300 block of Monument St. to carry out a slew of violent crimes.
“BGF is one of the most powerful and violent gangs here in Baltimore City,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.
Prosecutors say Evans held BGF meetings at the “Safe Streets” office and used it to store and distribute both drugs and firearms.
“These circumstances are really disturbing and clearly there was a failure of vetting,” Hur added.
Evans even conducted a murder for hire scheme.
“Actually arranging for other BGF members to go out and kill people that he authorized murders for,” Hur said.
Authorities say Thomas, who pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges as well, collected gang dues, sold drugs through controlled open air drug shops in east Baltimore, and ordered the hit of a rival gang member of the Bloods.
“We’re trying to restore trust in institutions and really a sense of safety and security in the community with prosecutions like these,” said Hur.
That’s what’s hit the community hard.
“Does it hurt me? Yes,” one community member said.
Trust over the city funded program that hires ex-felons with credibility in their communities to help control violence.
“To have “Safe Streets” go through this type of tragedy is really tough,” one Baltimore resident added.
What was supposed to be a safe haven for east Baltimore, was instead used as a pipeline for the violence that is plaguing this city.
“We want to make sure we’re really moving the needle as much as we can, and focused on the groups of offenders who are responsible for most violence in Baltimore City because we really need to get homicide levels down as fast and quick as possible,” Hur added.
Both men could face up to life in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges.
In May, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh secured $3.5 million in state funds and promised another $ 1.7 million from the city to fund new “Safe Streets” sites.