Disquieting portrait, by the numbers Baltimore gets statistical glimpse at its assets and many ailments

July 10, 1992|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

Baltimore unveiled a statistical self-portrait yesterday, and it wasn't pretty.

The numbers showed the link between poverty and a catalog of other social ills. Where people are poor, they are also likely to live in ramshackle housing, do badly in school, be frequent victims of crime and give birth at tender ages to underweight babies.

For the first time, city planners have assembled "community profiles" for each of Baltimore's 203 census tracts (areas of roughly 4,000 people). They include 1990 census data as well as city statistics on schools, health, welfare and crime.

The profiles provide not only the most complete statistical description yet of Baltimore's mountain of social problems, but also other glimpses of city life.

Did you know that prosperous Bolton Hill and environs was the city's auto theft capital? The Planning Department document shows that 234 vehicles were reported stolen there in 1990.

The Mount Vernon and Mount Royal areas just north of downtown were especially attractive to burglars, with 257 break-ins reported in an area of 2,795 households.

Guilford had Baltimore's most expensive houses -- a single-family dwelling sold on average for $318,000 in 1990 -- but the Homeland area (north of Homeland Avenue to the Baltimore County line) was the city's wealthiest, with median household income of nearly $65,000. The north end of Roland Park ran a close second.

In contrast, houses in a blighted part of West Baltimore's Sandtown neighborhood sold for the city's lowest average price: only $7,421.

Baltimore is not all extremes. Two areas were squarely middle-income for Maryland: the chunk of Ednor Gardens-Lakeside that lies east of The Alameda and the Northeast Baltimore census tract that includes Morgan Park and Lauraville. Both had household incomes near the statewide median of $39,386.

L But the city's overall profile is anything but middle class:

* More than one in six white Baltimore households and almost one in three black households had annual incomes of less than $10,000.

* The city had more single women with children (46,000) than married couples with children, and more than two-thirds of all births were to unwed mothers.

* The average public school student in Baltimore missed more than a month of classes in 1990-1991.

* Nearly 78,000 crimes were reported in 1990 alone.

While the portrait isn't flattering, planners say that by having such information at hand, community leaders can better target scarce resources to attack problems. The Planning Department will sell the set of community profiles to non-profit groups for $20.

"Rather than hide this for public relations reasons, our mayor and this commission are willing to put it out there in the hope the data would be viewed not as a way of blaming the victims . . . but as the basis for planning to correct the problems indicated," said Stelios Spiliadis, chairman of the Planning Commission. Baltimore's poorest and richest areas present a series of mirror images.

The city's two poorest areas are on the edges of downtown. One surrounds Oldtown Mall in East Baltimore and includes the Lafayette Courts public housing. The other is just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard and includes the Lexington Terrace and Poe Homes projects.

The median household income in both nearly all-black areas was in 1990.

Single women with children in the poorest areas outnumber married-couple families by 10-to-1, and residents there are almost all renters. The population is extremely young. About 40 percent of residents are children under 15. The average public school student misses more than 23 days of classes a year.

Most families there are on welfare, less than 10 percent of women having babies are married, and violent crime is common.

The city's richest area, Homeland, is on the city's far north side and about 95 percent white. Nearly 90 percent of families there are anchored by a married couple, and more than 80 percent are homeowners. More people are 65 and over than under 15.

In the wealthiest part of Baltimore, only 78 of nearly 1,000 school-age children even attend public schools. Those who do miss 12 days a year on average. Welfare is rare, not one teen-ager was reported to have given birth in 1988 or 1989, and crime tends to be against property, although armed robbery is not uncommon.

"There aren't really any surprises here," said Ray Bird, chief of the city's strategic planning. "Crime, educational achievement, health status, dependency on public assistance -- it all seems to center around income."

While poor neighborhoods were ravaged by crime, no area of the city was spared.

More than 4,100 crimes were reported in 1990 in the downtown area between Pratt and Franklin streets and bounded by the Jones Falls Expressway on the east and Paca Street on the west.

Baltimore's most murderous streets in 1990 were those between Eutaw Place and Pennsylvania Avenue, south of North Avenue and north of Laurens Street, in the Madison Park and Druid Heights neighborhoods. Fifteen homicides, 13 rapes, 73 armed robberies and 104 aggravated assaults were reported in an area housing 4,400 people.

And the city's most truant-filled streets were in two areas of Southwest Baltimore and the area around the Maryland Penitentiary. The statistics showed that in one Southwest Baltimore neighborhood -- south of Baltimore Street between Carey and Gilmor streets -- not a single student graduated from high school in 1990-1991.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.