In Baltimore, Hometown Heroes Quietly Try to Turn Things Around

"Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts walks the streets of his hometown with those dealing with drugs and violence in the community.
8:38 | 08/19/15

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Transcript for In Baltimore, Hometown Heroes Quietly Try to Turn Things Around
We begin tonight with the story close to my heart. It's about Baltimore, homicides are on the rise. Some say police are stepping back and the struggling community where drugs and poverty rule the streets. From the outside perspective, it looks awfully grim. Here's a glimpse from the inside. This is Baltimore, gritty, often angry, never any pretense. A downpour of bullets rain on the neighborhood. More blue collar than blue blood in the city I grew up in. I'm going to west Baltimore to see what we can see. Reporter: But riding undercover with D.E.A. Special agent Todd Edwards, seeing my hometown through his eyes is sobering. Drug transaction. Yeah. One guy's on the phone. Reporter: Block after block of abandoned buildings, broken dreams in the poison of illegal drugs flowing through her veins. When you see one of these corner drug dealers, how much are we talking about? You can sell between $10,000 and $30,000 a day. Make no mistake about it, it's very lucrative. It's a lot of money. Reporter: According to the Dea and Baltimore police, the rioting that convulsed after Freddie gray's death led to looting, sparking renewed turf battles and renewed bloodshed. This month, 35 murders, all while arrests were down 30% from that same month last year. And the people charged with keeping the peace? That's one of them. Cold docking an unarmed man. It's in this environment that federal agents have been asked to step in. But even for them it's daunting. When I got here I looked around and said this is like Gotham city without Batman. Reporter: That's Baltimore. That's Baltimore. Reporter: Gotham city without Batman. It's an image I couldn't shake. . It needs heroes. Reporter: So we set out to find some. In the neighborhood I grew up, too many medicating against old pains. Brandon, you getting started early? No. Sometimes you need something to wind down, you know? Reporter: Wind down in a city where nearly one in four live in poverty. An unemployment rate in some neighborhoods four times the national average and crime soaring. On the same streets where I walked to school, my bag was stoll stolen out of our car. I found it in this alley. 20 seconds. Reporter: And yet, on those same streets. Go up Pennsylvania and go up. Reporter: A resilience that felt familiar. I got shot right here, right here. It's like a Baltimore thing, everybody got them. Reporter: He was an addict, a drug dealer, arrested for attempted murder. Instead of just wanting to lock everybody up -- Reporter: But now he works for a state and federally-funded program called safe streets, mediating disputes between gang members, and we also found a resilience based in faith. Preachers filling a void police can't or won't. So we definitely have to increase the door knocking. Reporter: Families alarmed by increased draw activity on the corner near this church. Since Freddie gray's death we have seen a scarcity of law enforcement whose presence was really keeping that corner under control. Jesus! We have the victory! Reporter: So now there are prayer walks on known drug corners. Here amidst the small acts of heroism, we found giants. Thank you! Reporter: Meet Sean price, college educated, 28 year old native Baltimore Yan. We're hard-pressed to walk around and find somebody who didn't lose a loved one in Baltimore city in the last year. And I'm not talking to cancer or something like that. I'm speaking specifically to murder. Reporter: Educated in one of the city's elite private high schools, Sean played college football and returned home, though many of his peers left never to return home. Baltimore as he sees it is in need not of super heroes but home-grown talent that will stick around. I think Baltimore needs a bunch of every day people just rising to the occasion. Reporter: He mentors boys from the same neighborhood that produced Freddie gray. He's been a coach and mentor to 17 year old Kwan Oakley for five years. If I need anything, I can call Sean. We talk about the stuff that black kids need to talk about, like, to help you get past the obstacles here in Baltimore. He was right down the street. Reporter: Four days earlier, Kwan was nearly caught in a shootout. Sean asked what he would do if the police showed up. You shouldn't have to game plan on how to act innocent when the reality is, that you actually are innocent. Right. You gotta have some sort of reference point if these things happen. Me and Freddie are just alike. Yeah, no doubt. Just be as compliant as possible. I hate to have to tell you that. When you have skin like this you have no idea what's going to happen. Yeah, no doubt. Reporter: It's in this complicated space that mentors like Sean make a place to navigate. Yay! Reporter: Sean lives in the same neighborhood as Kwan with his fiance Ashley and their 1-year-old son. Sean and Ashley's area is an oasis. The city has a sporadic redevelopment campaign. But when Ashley walks to the bus stop, the rules change. The risk rises. There's a lot of activity and stuff like that, as far as addicts and people just not in their right state of mind. Reporter: Watch her demeanor change. You just basically stay on, stay on point and just have faith. Reporter: Ashley wants out of Baltimore. As for Sean. Reporter: What do you think about moving away? I thought about it. Reporter: I know that urge. For most, to be born in Baltimore is to always want to be part of Baltimore. But many like me left for opportunity elsewhere. Great neighborhood. Reporter: The same is true for the acting Dea. A Baltimore son just like me escaped to make a difference. We attended the same high school archbishop curly, ten years apart. Your fondness for this neighborhood? I don't know if I can say it. My first girlfriend, the utility pole there, I kissed her in 1983. Reporter: What are some things that make you sad? I think the senselessness. We failed somewhere. Reporter: Law enforcement and lay people, there are many shareholders in Baltimore's future. This is a three-story house. Reporter: We met shay last year. He just bought a vacant house in Baltimore. I probably took a good five gallon bucket of vials out of this house. Today he feels like he's home. I don't see any bars on the window. Yeah. Reporter: On the door. Yeah. Reporter: Is that on back order? I figure my neighbors will of what out for me. Reporter: Despite the national narrative of a city out of control, Baltimore is a collection of neighborhoods. One size won't fit all. But all in need of heroes. Remember Sean? He's now considering a major career change. I'm actually in the process of becoming a police officer. Reporter: Is that right? Yeah. With everything going on now, why not me? Reporter: It may not be Batman, but it is a heroic notion. For the record, we reached out repeatedly to the mayor's office and the police department. They never responded.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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