By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
This year is the fourth year of the Baltimore Ceasefire Movement and during the latest Ceasefire weekend (Feb. 5-7), violence was reduced dramatically once again during that 72 hour period.
On the first day of the Ceasefire, Feb. 5, we mourn the loss of a woman who was stabbed to death in the 400 block of Greene Street on the west side of downtown. On day two, Feb. 6, nobody killed anybody. On day three, Feb. 7, nobody killed anybody. Prior to the Ceasefire weekend, the city had endured another murderous start to a new year. The first murder of 2021 happened just four hours into the new year and 27 people were murdered last month, including some high-profile cases some which I wrote about in this column.
But, once again the Ceasefire weekend brought another dramatic reduction in violence in the midst of the all too routine murder and mayhem that torments are city.
The AFRO was the first news organization to recognize the empirical evidence that indicated the Ceasefire Movement had a significant positive impact on violence in Baltimore.
June 19, 2019, I wrote in this column:
In a study called, “Modeling the Effect of Baltimore Ceasefire,” published June 13 (2019), by Open Baltimore (a city agency), statistical data on shootings during the Ceasefire weekends indicate there have been 60 percent fewer shootings during the 72 hour period. “The effect of the Ceasefire is classically significant and suggests an approximate 60 percent reduction in shootings during Ceasefire weekends,” according to the report.
A subsequent report published March 11, 2020 by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) bolstered the findings of the Open Baltimore study. The AJPH reported:
“Results. There was an estimated 52% (95% credible interval [CI]= 33%, 67%) reduction in gun violence during ceasefire days and no evidence of a postponement effect on either the next 3 days or the next 3-day weekend following each ceasefire weekend…Conclusions. The Baltimore Ceasefire weekends may be an effective short-term intervention for reducing gun violence. Future research should aim to understand the key components and transferability of the intervention.”
I realize the importance of empirical evidence, especially in this city that covets venerable institutions that fiscally thrive in their roles as massive repositories of Black pathology. But, the triumph of Ceasefire cannot be measured solely in numbers. And the group’s success in violence reduction doesn’t emanate from their ability to generate public health white papers. Ceasefire works because of relationships the group’s leaders have forged in the streets of the city from day one.
Respect in the streets has translated to respect for Ceasefire within city institutions from City Hall, to the Baltimore Police Department. In a very real sense the Ceasefire organizers are some of the most authentic public servants we have in the city and that’s not journalistic conjecture, I have seen them work for four years now.
Here’s a very recent example: Erricka Bridgeford, the group’s leader interceded on behalf of someone very close to me, whose family was seeking answers in the murder of a family member. In their search for the truth about what happened to their loved one, they found themselves in a blackhole of bureaucratic inertia. Bridgeford got the name and got the answers the family sought.
That’s respect, that’s love and that’s what a public servant is supposed to be about.
I remember on the eve of that first Ceasefire weekend, I prayed so hard that there would be no murders overnight. The next morning, on Aug. 4, I swear on everything I could feel the energy in the city had shifted. Baltimore actually felt peaceful that summer morning and nobody had killed anybody overnight. I was so thankful.
On day two of that first Ceasefire weekend we mourned two men: Lamontrey Tynes and Donte Johnson. But, on day three nobody killed anybody. For most of those 72 hours, Baltimore was not gripped in violence. Nevertheless, because two men were gunned down during that period some people disparaged the Movement. Those people didn’t understand and they probably still don’t.
The truth is when the Baltimore Ceasefire Movement was birthed we had already won before the clock struck midnight on Aug. 4, 2017. Thousands of people intentionally committed to peace and we collectively raised the city’s vibration even prior to that fateful day.
And despite it all we keep rising.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Senior Reporter and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.