Federal Hill residents are pleading for help saying they're terrorized by Digital Harbor students

Posted at 6:31 PM, Apr 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 06:52:30-04

On a quiet block of Grindall Street, many residents say the middle of the afternoon can be a dangerous time.

"It's just terrifying, I live in constant fear," said one woman.

"We're prisoners in our own homes and this is not how we want to live," another man said.

At 2:50 p.m., nearby Digital Harbor High School lets out for the day, and surveillance video shows how teens flood the roadway.

Footage recorded last Tuesday shows a fight breaking out, then kids jumping on cars to get close to the commotion. On the video you see one woman call police and then start taping on her cell phone, when a teenager walks over and throws an umbrella at her face.

A vicious attack that people who live in area say happens all the time.

“We get a lot, well, it's just kids being kids,” a man said. "Kids being kids is not physically assaulting people and causing massive amounts of property damage."

"Watching what's going on with my neighbors and people around me, it's terrifying, I’m constantly in so much stress because of it," said a woman.

The two neighbors didn't want to show their faces on-camera because of the brutality, and are pleading for help. They, along with the woman who was attacked, tells ABC2 News there's been a surge of destructive behavior from the students like tires being slashed, vehicles dented and crime.

"We just don't know what else we can do and who else we can talk to, to find a solution," the woman said.

Digital Harbor students say there isn't a good relationship between the community and teens, explaining how some feel pushed away and seen as a problem.

"When you feel excluded, that's how the teens feel, like, well, I’m gonna lash out, and I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna do that cuz I’m already not welcome here, might as well give them a reason to be upset,” said Sophomore Tanaje Higgins.

She is a Peace Ambassador with the Inner Harbor Project.  Higgins and other students walk around after school promoting positive interactions between teens, residents and businesses.

“Showing that not all of us are rowdy, not all of us are crazy or destructive,” she said.  “We go around giving out positive vibes, trying to change the perspective of us.”

The effort expanded to Federal Hill last school year, but had to stop due to funding issues. 

Organizers know there won't be a quick fix in the area, especially with the students and residents coming from such different backgrounds and cultures, but say talking to the students could help everyone see eye to eye.

"My suggestion would really be for those residents who live there to look at those young people as children who need to be nurtured and respected, and to reach out to them with their hand and their heart and bridge that gap," Inner Harbor Project Executive Director Celia Neustadt said.

Baltimore City Schools are on Spring Break this week. ABC2 News reached out, and Public Information Manager, Edie House Foster released this statement:

While the majority of students at Digital Harbor High School continue to demonstrate behaviors that reflect the school community’s values and honor its vision, unfortunately a small group of students has engaged in unacceptable and disruptive actions in the community.  School administrators have identified the students involved in these incidents, and they will experience the appropriate disciplinary consequences based on the Baltimore City Public Schools Code of Conduct. 

Following spring break, we will be increasing school police patrols in the neighborhood at dismissal time, and we have requested additional support from the Baltimore Police Southern District.  At the same time, the school will be engaging community members to work with school administrators, students, and parents to address this issue.  And finally, teachers and administrators will meet with students to discuss these events and review expectations.

Baltimore City Police confirm they have stepped up patrols in the district, and encourage neighbors to call about any concerns.

"We want people to call 911, we want people to work with the Police Department," said Detective Jeremy Silbert.

He says the juvenile who threw the umbrella last week was arrested and charged with assault.