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.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

BRAC and Baltimore City:A Match Made in Heaven

Four letters will soon change Maryland forever: BRAC. Base Realignment and Closing. BRAC has been a long time coming for Fort Meade in Anne Arundel county and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County. BRAC is expected to bring 15,000 jobs to Maryland with secondary job gains actually reaching 40,000 to 60,000! Now that's a lot of citizens for Maryland to absorb isn't it? These people will drive cars won't they? They're going to have children won't they? So everyone's wondering how Maryland can build these homes, highways, and schools when land in the suburbs is being eaten up even before BRAC takes effect, if only infrastructure could magically appear to absorb these additional 100,000 people.
Hey wait a minute how many people did Baltimore City lose since its peak in 1950? Well in 1950 the population was 950,000 and in 2005 the population was estimated to be at 640,000 well that's a net loss of 310,000 people! Baltimore could theoretically absorb BRAC three times over! It could also absorb their children in their schools with space for 125,000 students but there are only 85,000 students enrolled, another statistic working in the favor of the city. The only thing that the City can't absorb is traffic. Even without BRAC the city's traffic well over capacity. BRAC's jobs will be in Harford and Anne Arundel counties so even if city streets were under capacity there would still be traffic issues. Rail transit and bus city bus lines expanded to Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground are a MUST!
Now offcials of all levels have not used Baltimore City as a place of residence for the new BRAC population. Hopefully with Martn O'Malley as Governor he will guide residents to the city considering the platform he ran for Mayor on was population growth. Anne Arundel County is reaching build out and Harford County is growing fast enough is as so they're not in the best position to absorb BRAC. Many blame the short fall of infrastructure on Western Howard County wanting to remain rural farm land but again look to Baltimore City and the infrastructure is just there waiting to be filled. Newcomers and may little option to find out that BRAC and Baltimore City are a match made in heaven