- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baltimore officials have suspended operations of the Safe Streets anti-violence program after police found guns and narcotics upon raiding one of its four offices.

Safe Streets, a grant-funded program that operates in four locations throughout Baltimore under the city’s Health Department, uses outreach workers, including past offenders, to go into the community to help reduce violence, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Police said a robbery investigation led them to the McElderry Park office, where they found guns, heroin, cocaine, and other items used in the manufacturing and sale of drugs, The Sun reported.

Two Safe Streets employees were among the nine people arrested.

Artez Harris, who had been a “violence interrupter” for Safe Streets since September 2013, and Ricky Evans, who had worked for the group since February, were both charged with drug and gun offenses and jailed, the report said.

Health Commissioner Leana Wen said both employees have been terminated.

“Safe Streets works because employees are often ex-offenders who have credibility in the neighborhoods they serve,” Ms. Wen said Tuesday, The Sun reported. “This incident is a reflection on the individuals involved, and should not take away the great successes of Safe Streets and the role it has played in reducing violence.”

The three other Safe Streets sites in the city will remain open, while the Health Department conducts a “full debriefing” on the program, Ms. Wen said.

A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “The mayor remains supportive of the program and the effective way it has been able to reach many people in our city and reduce crime. But she recognizes the program must be vigilant with respect to the activities of the program’s participants and staff members.”

Safe Streets offices have previously been suspended in 2010 and 2013 amid criminal allegations against employees, The Sun reported.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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