Baltimore City Council meets about hiring practices of Safe Streets program

The Baltimore City Council held a hearing on Thursday night to examine the hiring practices of the Safe Streets violence intervention program, following previous reports about connections between some employees and city gangs.

Council President Nick Mosby, while expressing belief in Safe Streets’ work, said concerning issues like the FBI search of the Belair Edison site in October raised questions about the employee vetting process that needed addressing.

MONSE Director Stefanie Mavronis stated the Mayor is committed to increasing transparency and oversight. She outlined recent changes like a standardized operating manual implemented in 2022.

Mavronis described Safe Streets’ “intensive” multi-step hiring process involving background checks by MONSE and BPD before community vetting of candidates seen as credible messengers. The aim is to thoroughly screen out unsuitable applicants.

Vacancy data showed 26 of 108 positions across 10 sites currently unfilled, with Belair Edison, Franklin Square and Park Heights being top priorities for hiring. Mavronis acknowledged full staffing is needed for optimal operations.

Regarding Belair Edison’s closure after the FBI search, Mavronis said there’s no indication Safe Streets Baltimore itself is under federal investigation. The shutdown was due to being severely understaffed, with plans for a “collaborative rebuild” pending an update within two weeks.

Fielding questions, Mavronis stated community nonprofits make final hiring decisions and shared salary ranges – $45K for violence interrupters, $50K for site supervisors, $65K for site directors.

Councilman Schleifer requested copies of the operating manual and data on program effectiveness, mediation reports, and weapon policies, which Mavronis said may require legal consultation to release.

The hearing allowed scrutiny of Safe Streets’ recruitment and oversight amid concerns over any potential gang ties infiltrating the violence reduction initiative’s workforce