Crispus Attucks Recreation Center Director Arlene Foreman is expecting to see and serve more children this summer, as are nine other recreation centers in the city. The reason: about $91,000 from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention to be used to keep the centers open for an additional three hours on Tuesday through Friday nights from July 13 to Aug. 13.
Gov. Martin O'Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the funds that will keep 10 recreation centers in areas with higher concentrations of at-risk youth open longer. The officials hope the extended hours will keep youth, between 12 and 17 years old, out of trouble by giving them a safe place to socialize.
"In these challenging times, there is nothing more important in our state than protecting Maryland's most vulnerable children and their families," O'Malley said in a statement. "These funds will help keep neighborhood kids off the streets, giving them a positive and safe atmosphere to stay during those hot summer nights."
The funding totals $86,378 to pay overtime for each center's director and recreation leader. An additional $5,000 is being made available to purchase athletic, craft and school supplies. Each center will plan their own activities, but some will partner with other centers.
The Coldstream Recreation Center director said arts and crafts will be available, in addition to t-shirt designing, Xbox competitions and basketball leagues.
Crispus Attucks Recreation Center is also offering sports. "We're having coed softball, we're trying to start aerobics and we offer weight training," said Foreman.
Foreman said her center usually sees between 55 and 75 teens a day. She expects a nice turnout during the extended hours, which she hopes will keep kids in her community safer. "The teens can come off the streets instead of being on the corner," she said.
O'Malley said statewide juvenile homicides are at their lowest rates since 1975, and down 46 percent since 2007. To continue protecting youth, the O'Malley-Brown administration has created other initiatives, like Operation Safe Kids, to help keep at-risk children off the streets by providing educational and service opportunities. The youth violence prevention program is currently active in Baltimore City and Prince George's County as a community-based monitoring organization for juvenile offenders.
However, amidst protests from many city and state individuals and youth advocates, O'Malley is also planning a youth jail to be built in Baltimore City. Protesters feel the $104 million facility should be scrapped in favor creating more educational opportunities for troubled youth. But the governor's office said funding geared toward at-risk youth has increased 300 percent under the O'Malley-Brown administration, and has reduced the number of juvenile offenders sent out of state where the odds of success are lower.
Rawlings-Blake noted Baltimore's progress in reducing violent crime and keeping families safe. In June, the city recorded the lowest number of shootings on record for any month of June. And, this year, juvenile nonfatal shootings are down 37 percent compared to the previous year.
"The grant funding will allow the Department of Recreation and Parks to offer more activities at 10 centers located in vulnerable neighborhoods this summer," she said. "Clearly, the governor understands the needs of young people in our communities."
The 10 centers with extended hours are: Lillian Jones, 1310 Stricker St.; Robert C. Marshall, 1202 Pennsylvania Ave.; Samuel Morse, 424 S. Pulaski St.; C.C. Jackson, 4910 Park Heights Ave.; Patapsco, 844 Roundview Rd.; Greenmount, 2304 Greenmount Ave.; Chick Webb, 623 Eden St.; Coldstream, 1401 Fillmore St.; Crispus Attucks,1601 Madison Ave. and Fort Worthington, 2710 E. Hoffman St.