It is more peaceful in the Mondawmin community these days, even as a wave of shootings and senseless homicides tied to what police are calling a gang war has pushed killings over 200 in Baltimore.

While victims are falling prey to violence in troubled areas of the city, in Mondawmin, where five homicides were reported in 2007 and only a single murder was investigated last year, residents are celebrating that this year’s tally stands at three, many fewer than in some previous years.

“We are a peaceful community that is made up of many seniors, homeowners and tax payers,” said Jacqueline Caldwell, president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council.

Caldwell says that her neighborhood’s image was tarnished as a result of a half-century of bad press fueled by crimes committed by outsiders.

“Whenever something bad happens, it just sheds a bad light on the entire community and it’s just not justified,” she said.

Owned in the 1800s by city councilman and physician Patrick Macaulay, according to Live Baltimore’s neighborhood profile for Mondawmin, the area was named after a Native American god of corn, which was widely cultivated in the region three centuries ago. In the post-World War II era, Mondawmin became associated with theft and violent crime.

Residents are elated that the community’s image is picking up.

“This area was pretty dangerous,” said Rev. Carvin Cook, 71, pastor of Emmanuel United Baptist Church, located near Mondawmin Mall. “When we first moved to this area in 1999, we would find used needles around the church” and gunfire could be heard regularly.

Carvin believes that the alcohol and drug abuse that plagued some residents, as well as a low marriage rate that resulted in fewer men living in the community, made it susceptible to crime. But that is changing, he said.

“The neighborhood associations have been very effective and the partnerships that exist between them and the police department been effective,” he said. “A few years ago the police began to have an intense presence. They made this a major target area. You don’t see as many people on the corners or walking up and down the streets anymore and there’s less drug dealing.”

He credited local churches with helping. “If the churches continue to do what they’re doing in growing outreach and working with the police we can change things.”

Typical of the change is the J-Man Supermarket, located near Carvin’s church. The multi-floor business has walls that are covered in bright African prints and shelves of neatly folded pants, shirts, suit coats and jackets.

According to owner KqlmStrqng, pronounced “calm-strong,” less than ten thefts occur a year and they are usually committed by young teens shoplifting small items like earrings, or older people trying to steal coats.

Local resident Timothy White, 49, said driving out the drug dealers has helped the community to improve.

“Guys would be on the corners selling drugs all day, even on Sundays,” said White, who’s been a resident of the community for 49 years. “I’ve had to ask them to move before and they respect it. The merchants make them move now and tell them they can’t sell narcotics in their stores.”

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer