BALTIMORE, MARYLAND— Government officials in Baltimore, Maryland, estimate $9 million in damage was caused by violent demonstrations and riots against police last month. Angry residents took to the streets in the predominately African-American city following the suspicious death of Freddie Gray, a black man, while in police custody.
Six police officers, including three African-Americans, face criminal charges in connection with the death. Residents are looking toward the future and solutions to uplift the entire city.
Life has returned to normal in the riot-torn West Baltimore neighborhood. Police are still fighting high crime, and on nearly every corner are signs of economic despair. The recent riots only compounded the problem.
Many businesses damaged
More than 280 businesses were damaged in the area where 23 percent of black men are unemployed. University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Dean Bronwyn Mayden was born in Baltimore, and she said securing jobs for blacks is key to the city's future success.
"We also need people that are ready to be trained for jobs. And right now in this community we have a lot of issues where we need to work on getting people ready to be able to hold onto jobs," said Mayden.
Maryland state lawmaker Antonio Hayes, who represents this neighborhood, said people here want a better Baltimore.
"Being better means seeing justice in our criminal justice system, having better opportunities for fair housing, and, you know, having better wages," Hayes.
One out of four blacks in the neighborhood do not have a high school diploma. Brittany Davis blames city officials, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, for not making educational investments in black neighborhoods.
"She has taken away our taxpayers' money and given it to a builder downtown to build condos, but our schools are lacking resources that they need for our children," said Davis.
Community leaders say regaining trust with the police also is essential to moving the city forward.
Former Baltimore police officer Rob Weinhold said, "You have to be engaged with the folks that you are sworn to protect and serve, and understanding what the core issues are so you can, as a public servant, figure out how to be a terrific convener, facilitator and problem solver to improve the quality of life "
Linda Kees wants the police to do more to fight crime in the neighborhood and dreams of a better quality of life for her family.
"I hope they really build the community up like they [city officials] say they will. With that being said, I will do everything in my power to help. I do not have a problem going from door to door asking anybody if they want to help," said Kees.
Kees and others believe positive change can happen with a stronger determination to invest more money in the community and the people who live here.