May 27, 2024
Annapolis, US 78 F

OPINION: Annapolis, We Must Do Better

On Friday,  three children were shot at 420 pm in a neighborhood in Annapolis as the bus dropped kids off from school. The City of Annapolis and the Annapolis Police Department did not release any information on the shooting for more than 19 hours. There was no community safety alert nor statement from officials of any kind.

Had this shooting occurred in Annapolis Roads, West Annapolis, or Murray Hill, there would have been press conferences from Mayor Gavin Buckley, the Annapolis Police Department’s Police Chief Edward Jackson, and probably even Governor Wes Moore. However, there was nothing. 

There was a release under the guise of a daily news update released Friday afternoon, and that was it initially.   By Friday evening, we had received more information from the school system than from the city, even though these are our neighbors, our city’s residents, our children’s friends, our children’s classmates, and our children’s teammates. I would like to believe that the lack of City interest in and response to this horrible incident is not due to the fact that these children live in, and were shot in, a lower income, primarily minority resident, Annapolis neighborhood but too many years of watching this happen over and over and over again show otherwise.

I understand that tourism and visitors are big business to this city, but they should never be as important as the residents who live in the city, regardless of the resident’s income level, skin color, etc. Hiding crime, like not reporting rapes (did you know one occurred last month near Weems Whalen) and only proactively reporting crimes once arrests have been made, does a huge disservice to the residents of Annapolis. And repeatedly downplaying by not publicizing incidents like yesterday’s shows residents of our low-income neighborhoods that we don’t matter in the grand scheme of the City. 

If the City were our parents, and we were the kids, there would be a reasonable cause to call CPS on them for neglect. The City needs to stop neglecting our neighborhoods and start doing everything it can to ensure that we live with the same level of safety and security as every other neighborhood in Annapolis.

The next time the police chief brings up the ‘bad actors’ that come from elsewhere to cause problems here, ask yourself, or even better, ask him why they go out of their way to come to Annapolis to commit crimes. It’s not easy to get here, it’s not efficient, it’s not convenient, so why do they come here to commit crimes? The answer is pretty easy… 

It’s because they can. 

It’s because no matter how hard our officers on the streets work both on the streets and in the communities, the policies of the chief,  the City administration, and HACA make it an easy place for criminals to do what they want to do. 

I’m tired of it affecting my neighborhood and the other neighborhoods in Annapolis. I’m tired of it affecting the families that live in certain neighborhoods who are just trying to survive,  thrive, and make it to the weekend without their kids getting shot at the bus stop and seeing classmates and friends bleeding on the sidewalk, or worse. I’m tired of our communities being attacked and then ignored. 

We deserve better.

When I was in high school we had a fatal drinking and driving incident that affected students from multiple high schools. The schools and the community didn’t throw up their hands in despair, bury their heads, or bifurcate by who may or may not have been involved or what city or county or state they were from. They reacted immediately and comprehensively. They called emergency assemblies and spoke to all students about the incidents, drinking and driving, and the consequences. They reached out to all families, putting everyone on notice and giving everyone the information. They made very clear the consequences to parents who allowed drinking and driving on their watch and gave resources to parents to help them address the issue at home. 

This kind of proactive, community-wide response is what needs to happen in Annapolis. This is not just an issue for one or two communities; it affects our whole community, every single person who lives in Annapolis, even if they don’t realize it. If the community is not involved in the conversation, it will not get better. 

Chief Jackson, Mr. Buckley, Dr. Bedell, Mr. Pittman, Ms. Maddox-Evans, the principals of all of our middle and high school student-serving schools, community leaders, maybe even Governor Moore and our state representatives, need to get together and come up with a plan of action and a response, and then communicate that clearly to the community at large. When I say that we want to hear from the administration when shootings occur, I mean we don’t just want thoughts and prayers, we want acknowledgement of the situation and to know what is being done to prevent it from happening again. 

This particular incident involved children at an AACPS bus stop. Hundreds of buses service Annapolis schools every day. What is the plan for ensuring that this doesn’t happen again today, tomorrow, or the next day at another bus stop in a different community? Some of our schools have SROs staffed by county police, and some have no SROs. However, most of our students live within the city, and incidents in the city are handled by city police. Is the communication between these different entities sufficient to allow proactive responses to incidents that have happened and potential concerns? Are the school counselors part of this chain of conversation? What resources are needed to make it easier and better and to keep our kids safe? Can those be obtained? What is being done proactively to reach the students who witnessed this incident and other violent crime incidents and make sure their mental health needs are being met? Not just a “we’re here if you need us” response, but a proactive, “we’ll come to you” response. Who is following on social media, where many community-centered fights start and continue? What resources are being offered to parents who need help, and how do they know how to ask for them? 

This week and next, all AACPS high schoolers not in tests have a delayed start of 3.5 hours on five days and no school on Tuesday. What is being done to ensure the community and parents are fully aware of this schedule? What alternatives are being offered for families who can’t take time off work to support their children during these delays if needed? Has the school system worked with the Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department to ensure community centers and athletic facilities are open and available if kids want to use them? 

Our community needs our leadership to work together, to stop passing the buck between jurisdictions and organizations, and to focus on fixing a situation that has been happening for far too long. It has been going on for so long that the people most affected are largely resigned to this just being a fact of life – and that is unacceptable. Our leadership needs to put together an actionable plan that brings in and works with the community and ensures the most affected communities know that the leadership cares as much about them as it does about tourists and all other neighborhoods in the city. 

If you have been elected or hired to serve the community, we expect you to make it better. There are no more excuses. We cannot lose another Annapolis child to gun violence.

We deserve better.

-An Eastport Resident

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