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Baltimore cannot account for millions as drugs, danger and yes,  rats, lurk around every corner

It is 2:25 in the afternoon as EMTs struggle to help the writhing man, facedown in the dirt on the sidewalk.

They strap him onto a stretcher. His head lolls, his T-shirt rides up exposing his belly and white foam crusts around his mouth. It is hardly a rare occurrence, according to one bystander.

‘This is a high drugs run,’ he explains, gesturing up and down W North Avenue, ‘They OD and fall out all the time.’

Within the next three hours and as many blocks there will be three shootings in this pocket of West Baltimore alone.

It is home to some of the most dangerous housing projects in the country, where homicide is an epidemic; drugs are on every corner and rats root around in the mounds of trash strewn in side alleys.

Buildings lie derelict, demolished and uncleared. Drug dealers fan their cash and addicts trip in broad daylight.

Last weekend President Trump prompted outrage when he kicked back at Congressman Elijah Cummings criticism of conditions in border camps by describing his district as a, ‘disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.’

Today, the president mocked the ‘really bad news’ that the congressman’s Baltimore apartment had been robbed.

According to the President, District 7 is ‘FAR WORSE and more dangerous,’ than the nation’s southern border.

‘No human being would want to live there,’ he tweeted, demanding to know where the $16billion of Federal funding given to the city had gone.

It’s a good question – with few answers.

The truth is that the city itself cannot account for the millions of dollars in grants that have poured into its coffers, according to Baltimore’s most recent audit analyzed by DailyMail.com.

According to the 2018 city audit, millions of the dollars supposedly invested here are unaccounted for.

The audit notes numerous ‘significant deficiencies’ and ‘material weaknesses’ across almost every department and found a consistent lack of any internal tracking of funds.

The accounting for some departments was found to be so lacking that the sum of questioned funds is simply labeled ‘Unknown.’

City Auditor Audrey Askew resigned from her post in February of this year amid rumors that she had been pressured to ‘write off’ sums of money that were otherwise unaccounted for.

Speaking at the time an unnamed colleague described Askew as ‘honest’ and unwilling to bow to such pressure.

Baltimore’s then Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned three months later amid a growing scandal that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of children’s books that she wrote and were bought by the University of Maryland Medical System while she was a member of the board.

And 2018 isn’t the first year of such mismanagement.

In 2014, for example, a finance department study found that $40million in grant money made from state, federal and other sources was unaccounted for.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development ordered the city to repay $3.7 million from a grant awarded to serve homeless people. The city claimed to have dispersed the money to anti-poverty organizations that didn’t properly document how it was spent.

According to a recent report from the Urban Institute Baltimore still suffers the legacy of what once was an overtly racist – and legally segregated – housing policy that prohibited homeowners in white areas from selling to blacks.

The report highlighted a ‘longstanding and stark segregation in how investment is distributed within the city.’

Lawrence Brown, an associate professor in Morgan State University’s School of Community Health and Policy, described the segregated wings of East and West Baltimore as, ‘the black butterfly.’

Go a handful of blocks back from Baltimore’s upscale Inner Harbor and a disturbing reality, as witnessed this week by DailyMail.com and confirmed by some of its residents.

Sisters Joyce and Diane (pictured) have lived in Gilmore Homes all their lives. The area is consistently ranked among Baltimore’s top three most dangerous housing complexes. According to Diane, ‘What Trump said is true! Look around. It’s the pit of hell. There’s killing all the time over drugs, over territory. There was a shooting just around the corner yesterday. Babies are getting killed. That man (Cummings) don’t do s***. There’s nowhere for the kids to go and there’s no jobs.’

 Smoove

Smoove, 24, has a job. He’s a ‘pharmacist.’ It’s a dangerous line of business. One of his ‘co-workers’ he said, was shot the day before. His best friend DayDay was killed three years ago just around the corner. DayDay’s shirt is still tied around the post at the intersection where it happened -his picture bleached out with the sun. Smoove fussed with it as he recalled, ‘They emptied a whole clip on him. He’s strong and he got up. He’s a soldier. But he ain’t strong enough for that. I got here and I saw nothing but blood.

‘He died in hospital three days later. His girl called me. I ain’t ashamed to say I cried.’

According to Smoove, ‘Every group has a DayDay.’

All around the streets balloon memorials deflate on lamp posts next to the pictures of the young black men shot there. Sandtown and Winchester, the area in which Gilmore Homes sits, was ‘ground zero’ for the riots that tore through the city after Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015.

According to Smoove everything got worse after that. He said, ‘There used to be women and kids, ballers, flash cars all round here but look at it now, it’s a ghost-town. That made the police and us beef even more. It made us go at it even more. They were riding three deep at one point. All that did was separate us from them even more.

‘The crime rate went up. The murder went up. The thieves went up. Everything bad went up. It went crazy with Pepper [Gray’s nickname].’

Now, Smoove said, ‘This is one of the most dangerous projects in the city. You could get shot right now, taken down, no warning. I don’t even come out here after a certain time if I don’t have a piece of steel on me. A body gets taken here they’re going to come back for another one. Tit for tat it comes back ten times worse every single time.

‘Pills, money…this city is wicked. Your best friend will kill you here.’

Anita and her husband Warren ‘Diggy Dog’ Scott have lived in the area for more than fifteen years. Chunks of ceiling are missing from her front room. The entire back wall is covered not with plasterboard but black plastic.

She helps look after the community garden planted next to her building. There are chicken coops on the next block she said. The chickens are padlocked inside since neighborhood kids came and killed their predecessors.

She said, ‘You want to talk about the city, help do something about it. Help make it better. It never gets any better.’

 

Quintin Toak Reiduns a Bailbondsman business on North Avenue.

According to him Elijah Cummings is ‘a hero.’ He said, ‘This was ground zero for the Freddie Gray riots and you saw him every single day. If he wasn’t doing something right then Trump wouldn’t have attacked him. He has a constitutional obligation to hold the president accountable.’

He added, ‘When I was growing up Baltimore was Charm City. We were known for our white marble steps. This road was the line between the black neighborhoods on the south and the white on the north.’

Today Reid talks of the gentrification he anticipates coming to the area. In truth its encroachment in to this part of West Baltimore looks to be a long way off.

On the streets of West Baltimore 30-year-old father, James watches his four-year-old son Jamauri play with a hose at a leaking water hydrant.

The Forensics Unit and Baltimore PD patrol car have just pulled off the scene of a shooting that took place around the corner earlier in the afternoon.

The crime scene tape has been taken down from the ends of the alleyway carpeted with dismal detritus of addiction – needles, lighters and aerosols.

James lives in East Baltimore and worries about his son who lives with his mother on the West side. Both are just the same he said. Asked what he worried about most he said simply, ‘The murders.’

To 20-year-old ‘Bug’ freewheeling his bike with a group of friends ages 15 to 21, the killing is just a fact of life.

‘I love my city,’ he said. ‘But people get shot, people get killed that’s just life. F*** Trump.’

None of the young people DailyMail.com encountered had any faith in politicians to change their lives for the better. All around signs posted on windows or scrawled on walls implored for the shooting to stop.

 

Antonia Hayes, 26, mother of three, told of the black mold in her home and rat infested property. Tiara Reed, 27, three months pregnant with her second child, old of leaks in toilet causing mildew and rats. She is currently been taking to court for not paying rent and moving in days.

 

According to Smoove, ‘It’s all a game to them. Democrats, Republicans…it don’t make no difference to us.

‘We’re all just characters in a book already written and we can’t change but one word.

‘We’re oppressing ourselves. You’ve got to be sober and vigilant to beat the enemy.

‘I have a three-year-old son who lives with his mother in Pennsylvania. That’s how I want it. If he was here he’d be dead before he was 21. I’d rather remove anyone I loved from here.’

Trump’s words were true, Smoove admitted, ‘I could accept them if they came from anybody but him.’

 

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