By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore

The death on July 19 of Taylor Hayes, the seven-year-old girl who courageously fought for her life for weeks after she was hit with bullets likely meant for somebody else while riding in the back seat of a car, has tormented many in a city all too familiar with wanton violence.

Yet, her death is one of dozens of children 18 or under (including four under age seven so far in 2018) who have been homicide victims in Baltimore since 2014.

In 2014, three-year-old McKenzie Elliott was killed when she was struck by a stray bullet while two other people were shot and survived. It wasn’t until April 2017 that an arrest was made in connection with that killing. (AFRO Photo)

The first homicide victim of 2018 was Andre Galloway, 16, who was one of two young Black males gunned down on New Year’s Day. But, there have been a total of 11 children 18-years-old or under violently killed in 2018 so far. On July 18, the day before Taylor died, 18-month-old Zaray Gray was killed, allegedly by his father (see story on this page), perhaps indicative of the encompassing epidemic of murder and mayhem that has not spared Baltimore’s children.

“When I think about the 101 children whom have been killed in Baltimore since 2014 it makes me sick to my stomach thinking about the loss of human potential,” said David Miller, nationally recognized child advocate, author and CEO of the Dare to Be King Project. The fact that almost all of the children who have been murdered in our city are Black causes Miller to question the sense of urgency, or lack thereof on the part of some city leaders.

“I also wonder if half of these children were White what would be the response from the powers that be,” Miller said. “To say we have failed our children is a colossal understatement.”

Unofficially, there have been 101 children 18 or under who have died violently in Baltimore since 2014. In 2017, 16 children were murder victims and in 2016, 25 children died violently, including 10 children under the age of seven. In 2015, the year of the uprising following the funeral of Freddie Gray 29 children under the age of 18 died, more than any of the years since 2014.

Many may feel overwhelmed or a sense of hopelessness when faced with the grim reality of so many children dying violently in Baltimore. But, some law enforcement and criminal justice professionals argue a more comprehensive crime fighting strategy is needed to diminish the cycle of violence and bring down the number of all homicide victims including children.

“Transparency is critical to effective solutions to dramatically reducing crime,” said Dr. Tyrone Powers, director of the Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Institute of Anne Arundel Community College.

“The systemic violence among and between some – and it is only some – of our youth will not abate itself. Identifying true causation or significant correlation can only be identified with honest and accurate revelations and reporting. We can only effectively counter that which we completely understand. Superficial understanding can only lead to superficial solutions, even by well-intentioned people.”

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor