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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Baltimore Has a Crime Problem!

Well thank you captain obvious! It does however merit a discussion. I grew up in Columbia which is right in between Baltimore and D.C. Our T.V. even gets both network stations so we get to pick which local to watch. Both cities struggle with large amounts of crime especially in the 80s and 90s when I was growing up. I guess living in between these two cities I assumed that all big cities have this constant permanent wave of violent crime. Needless to say I was wrong and nieve, perhaps I was just living in a bubble, a crime filled bubble.
Now the question is how to get crime back down again. First lets start off with a recent history of crime in Baltimore. There was plenty of crime before the 1960s but it was then that crime became more widespread and frequent.
As white flight to the suburbs occurred neighborhoods became repopulated with African American residents who bought their homes at inflated prices. The riots after the assination of Martin Luther King made once stable neighborhoods crumble.
Baltimore's urban renewal of the 1960s, 70s and 80s consisted primarily of Charles Center, Inner Harbor and surrounding neighborhoods. Neighborhoods without waterfront access along with their remaining residents were left to crumble.
The 1990s brought attention to neighborhoods other than those surrounding the harbor. Improvements were made in scattered areas throughout the city.
The 2000s is when the biggest crime reduction occurred. The murder rate is what still remains high.
There is no solution to truly get rid of crime especially gun violence. Different Mayors have had very stances on violent crime and how to get it down. Kurt Schmoke was soft on crime. Now that's not entirely true, he tried to examine the social situations that "cause" crime. During the 1990s Baltimore's crime rate remained high while other large cities' crime plummeted. The opposite can be said about population, while other cities in the 1990s gained population Baltimore continued to lose population.
In 2000 Martin O'Malley was elected on the premise that he would cut the murder rate in half. Although the murder rate went down considerably during Mayor O'Malley's tenure it wasn't but in half. One can say that O'Malley shot himself in the foot by giving such precise number of how much he would cut violent crime. Unlike Schmoke O'Malley was seen as "tough" on crime and was "cracking down." Today Martin O'Malley with the help of yours truly is Governor of our fair state. City Council President Sheila Dixon is currently serving as Mayor. Mayor Dixon may not be able to make a name for herself because the mayoral election is this November and she was sworn in as Mayor this past January. From 2000-2004 Baltimore's murder rate was lowered but it slowly crept up in 2005 but then in 2006 and so far this year forget it, it's out of control. Sheila Dixon seems to be more like Schmoke when it comes to crime.

I personally think that when it comes a Mayor's stance on crime he/she can have their cake and eat it too. You can explore the roots of what makes a criminal while at the same time punishing and cracking down on offenders and sending them to prison. I don't personally believe that a persons living situation makes them a criminal.There are many people who live in Baltimore's most crime ridden neighborhoods and grow up to be honest hard working members of society. On the flip side there are who grow up in the best of circumstances and turn to a life of drugs and crime. The Baltimore City Police Department has had a revolving door of Police Commissioners during the O'Malley years with charges of corruption and domestic violence causing them to resign. One thing residents are asking for is more police foot patrols. I couldn't agree more. Just driving around in a police cruiser doesn't give officers enough of an idea of what's going on the neighborhood. There have been many arrests but few have led to charges. Either the Police Department is making too many arrests or the Judicial System is throwing out too many cases. Surveillance cameras have taken the city by storm ever since 9/11. Homeland Security is partially picking up the tab for some of these even though terrorist attacks are the last thing that would happen in most of these neighborhoods. Some complain that the cameras aren't doing their jobs because violent crime remains high.The cameras have however gotten petty crime suspects caught such as robbery, car thefts, drug deals, open bottles, smoking marijuana. The media doesn't report these so it's easy to see that the cameras don't work. The aforementioned crimes are the vast majority of crimes in the city. If there's a reduction in those crimes which there has been neighborhoods can appear safer.

Nothing can really bring down the murder rate. We can stem the tide of young violent criminals by increasing the number of after school activities and tutoring to keep kids in school and give them a sense of self worth. Getting to the youth of the city before gang members do maybe the only hope for getting the murder rate down.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right on. At least somebody's writing about this!

I'm leaving my comment anonymous on purpose because of my growing frustration with this city. I haven't lived here that long, but in the relatively short time I've been here I've called time and again about quality of life issues, rampant crime, illegal dumping, etc. I've written to the policemen supposedly involved with Citizens on Patrol, practically BEGGING for information on how to get involved. I've tried to find my local neighborhood association or anyone at all who might be interested in helping to reduce the amazing amount of litter flooding my area, and nothing.

I'm sick of it. Not doing anything goes against every fiber of my being, and trying to do something fills me with a fear of retaliation that leaves me sleepless most nights.

Christ. How many more decent, interested, hardworking people have to leave this city before the bureaucracy starts to appreciate the people who really do want to help? I can't live much longer on a street where people are snorting coke, shooting heroin, going to the bathroom, etc. right out in the open. Not when I live next door to a police officer. You'd think that I'd live on one of the best streets around because of that simple fact, but I don't.

Baltimore, wake up. Listen to the people who care!

Spence said...

If you don't mind me asking what neighborhood do you live in? Baltimoe has many "up and coming" neighborhoods where people are moving back and reinvesting after years of disinvestment. These neighborhoods sounds like Pigtown, Reservoir Hill, and Patterson Park. Sadly there are those who don't their neighborhood to improve.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late into this dicussion, but this has to be said:

Everyone overlooks the obvious. Crime in Baltimore is rampant because no one cares. That's what happens when your residents blindly vote for one party decade after decade after decade. There is no REAL competition for the job as mayor, just a few months of infighting as the machine determines who gets to wear the crown (and swallow the shit) for the next half of a decade.

Sure there are gentrified areas, but people who think that this is a citywide trend are naive and unfamiliar with the acres and acres of blight throughout the majority of the city's limits. The PRIVATE MONEY INVESTMENT (that's right, no mayor or government gentrified Canton, Fells Point, and Federal Hill) will only invest as long as investment is profitable. People have no interest in the majority of the city, only the areas with "value" such as the waterfront.

A side of me can't argue. Take a ride down Fulton Ave one day and tell me what's worth saving. Nonetheless, all of Baltimore's residents should have the right to live on a maintained block, with public works, trash pickup, and most importantly, a safe environment.

But they have to want it. Until there is outrage at what has happened to this city, until people begin to put their money (and their votes) where their mouths are, Baltimore will continue to rot.

-The Baltimore Observer

Spence said...

I have taken plenty of rides down Fulton Avenue and have watched its median from yesteryear restored. I see what used to be beautiful glorified homes that once housed Baltimore's elite businessmen. I see vacant lots that were turned into landscaped gardens tended at residents' time and expense. I go a few blocks east of Fulton Avenue and see Heritage Crossing, built on the grounds of the former Murphy Homes and the look of happiness on the residents' faces. I go to the eastern edge of Sandtown where my personal hero; James Rouse's Enterprise Foundation has redeveloped and restored over 200 homes with more to come. This has turned the working poor into home owners. This section of Sandtown is comparable to a suburban oasis found in Howard County. Tell me that's not worth saving! It's only a matter of time before Fulton Avenue itself gets rediscovered by homesteaders and historians and becomes as beautiful as Roland Avenue.