BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new report found that homicides were the leading cause of death among children in Baltimore.

Mayor Brandon Scott made public the findings of the Child Fatality Review Report on Friday, which examined 208 child fatality cases over the span of five years. Of those, 69 children were murdered, according to the report, which was produced by the Baltimore City Child Fatality Review Team.

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The report noted that those children killed were predominantly vulnerable infants and teenagers between the ages of 16 and 17. The teenagers who were killed typically had a history of struggling in school and were involved in the juvenile justice system, according to the report.

Additionally, data used to compile the report shows that 90% of the kids who died were children of color, “reflecting the structural racism that is a root cause of the harrowing social and environmental factors underlying child fatality,” the report said.

“In the past five years, 208 children died in Baltimore City,” said Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. “In our close work together on child fatality reviews, we have found that 91% of these deaths were preventable.”

The city’s first homicide victim of 2022 was a 17-year-old male.

In 2021, Baltimore officials lamented a series of homicides involving young people, including 15-year-old Ja’Nyi Weeden, who was gunned down on the night of August 10, 2021; 15-year-old Jhosy Getson Portillo, who was shot and killed a week after Weeden; and 13-year-old Maliyah Turner, who was fatally shot next to the Lillian Jones Recreation Center as children participated in an evening activity in West Baltimore on Nov. 18, 2021.

Children who were present at the time of Turner’s shooting cried as their caretakers picked them up from the center in the pouring rain.

“We know things have to change,” Scott said during a press conference in front of City Hall on Friday.

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Scott said that he was committed to implementing new and innovative solutions to address and prevent youth fatalities because “status quo solutions have been proven not to work.” The report makes several recommendations for how he can steer Baltimore toward reducing the number of children who die from violence.

  • Young victims of nonfatal shootings and stabbings need wraparound services
  • Hospital-based intervention would reduce the risk of violence
  • Enhanced care coordination for kids age 13 and younger who have been charged in the juvenile system, with an emphasis on comprehensive support for families
  • Identifying options and sources of funds for families who need to relocate due to violence
  • Student support teams across the Baltimore school district, with an emphasis on intervening on attendance early in elementary school
  • The number of youth in Baltimore’s schools who have multiple school-based risk factors for fatality must be determined. Additionally, the feasibility of identifying those youth and intervening early on a routine basis must be determined too.
  • Mental Health First Aid and trauma-informed care training for the city’s schools and child- and family-serving organizations
  • Credible messengers must be trained and employed across child- and family-serving agencies to outreach and engage families
  • Safe Streets services should be expanded to additional neighborhoods with clusters of youth homicides.

Scott noted during the press conference that he has been trying to curb the violence by leaning on the Safe Streets community safety initiative. Safe Streets sends its members, known as violence interrupters, into Baltimore’s neighborhoods to mediate disputes before they escalate to violence.

“We are deploying our violence interrupters out there,” he said. “We are devastated that we lost one of them. We’re making sure that our police are where they need to be. We are continuing to attack those who have guns and bring guns into our city.”

Three of those violence interrupters have been gunned down within about a year.

Donte Barksdale, an activist and Safe Streets crime fighter, was shot and killed on a strip of sidewalk that cuts through Douglass Homes on Jan. 17, 2021.

Safe Streets outreach worker Kenyell “Benny” Wilson was shot and killed on July 1, 2021. Wilson drove to Harbor Hospital, which is where he crashed his Volvo XC90. He walked into the hospital with gunshot wounds and died a short time later.

Safe Streets violence interrupter DaShawn McGrier was among the 20 homicide victims within the first 20 days.

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Scott decried the shooting that killed McGrier in a press statement, saying that enough was enough.

CBS Baltimore Staff