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Safe Streets Mondawmin Shut Down After New Gun Arrest

December 12, 2013

safestreets_logoBaltimore’s Safe Streets program took another blow yesterday when the Baltimore Department of Health abruptly shuttered the Mondawmin branch after another of its workers was arrested.

Levar Mullen, 33, faces drug and gun charges after police stopped his pickup truck and found a loaded Glock .45. As a convicted murderer, Mullen is not allowed to have a firearm.

Safe Streets, modeled on Chicago’s CeaseFire program, employs an epidemiological model of violence and hires ex-cons to intervene in street beefs to prevent new shootings and other violence. Baltimore’s program, started in 2007 by Johns Hopkins Professor Daniel Webster, has garnered much positive press, including this Frontline documentary.

The program, which is overseen by the Health Department and operated by non-profits and claims up to a 50 percent reduction in violence in the neighborhoods which it operates, is set for expansion under the Baltimore Police Department’s Strategic Plan. 

But it has also faced challenges as several high-profile workers in the program caught new charges.

In 2010 Todd Duncan was indicted, in part with wiretapped evidence from his job with Communities Organized to Improve Live (COIL), a Safe Streets vendor. Duncan used his gang-intervention job as cover for gang activities as part of the Black Guerrilla Family.

Duncan’s arrest caused a funding freeze for the program, but funding was resumed after a commission concluded that the program was not under the gang’s influence.

Last week, Nathan Barksdale, a lifelong gangster who claims to have inspired a similarly-named character on David Simon’s The Wire, was federally indicted as part of a crackdown on BGF.  The Mondawmin Safe Streets director was quoted saying Barksdale “had a large impact on reducing violence in our targeted area.”

Police say an informant told them last month that Mullen was dealing drugs, and on December 7 plain-clothes detectives stopped his truck, allegedly because they say he was not wearing a seat belt. Mullen allegedly moved “furtively” before rolling down his window to give up his license and registration. He told police he was working for Safe Streets but declined to give them permission to search the truck for guns and drugs.

They called for the dog, observed Mullen allegedly put his hands down his pants, and pulled him from his truck for a pat-down. The gun was in the waistband, according to the incident report police emailed to reporters.

Mullen’s driver’s license was suspended this year, according to online court records, when he failed to appear for a July seat belt infraction. He was charged with assault in late 2011 (the charges dropped), and with possessing a contraband cell phone while in prison in 2008. He was serving time for murder—30 years, with 22 suspended—starting in 2005. Mullens had previously been sentenced to five years for illegal possession of a gun, in 2004.

It is unclear from the available record how he happened to serve five years, get released, kill someone, and be sentenced again during that year.

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  • Sebastian Sassi

    Five years for murder…and we wonder why the city is violent.