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Neighbors come together for community safety walk in light of recent violence in Highlandtown

Posted at 9:42 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 23:09:45-04

BALTIMORE — A wave of violent crime prompted neighbors in the Highlandtown and Patterson Park communities to come together for a safety walk.

The walk was inspired by recent shootings and homicides in the area, which include the shooting death of a 15-year-old Jhosy Portillo last week.

“It’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking,” said Rachel Andrex.

More than a dozen community members came together for the safety walk in the area where Portillo was killed and walked several blocks.

“It’s a very visceral feeling when a child loses his life. For what. For nothing,” said Arch McKown, who is the safety chair for the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association.

He said the homicide was one of six in the neighborhood since February.

“There aren’t consequences for people who are breaking the law and acting violently,” McKown said.

Kurtis Palermo is the director of ROCA, which is an organization that deals directly with young people at the center of urban violence.

Palermo and his team work to stop youth violence before it even starts.

“A lot of the time their natural reaction is to fight, flight or freeze and sometimes that means pulling a gun and shooting somebody because if you don’t they’re going to shoot you first,” he said. "So, how can we work with them over a period of time to get them to think before they react out of emotion.”

Andrex, who lives in the area, called what’s happening in the city as heartbreaking.

She said the blame doesn’t just fall on city leaders, but on everyone.

“We all have to do better. Our spiritual leaders, our community leaders,” she said. “Just talking to our neighbors I mean because people are dying.”

The group is hoping the walk can lead to some solutions to help solve the crime problem in Baltimore.