Goodbye to Crime-Ridden BaltimoreRecently while raking the...


December 05, 1992

Goodbye to Crime-Ridden Baltimore

Recently while raking the leaves and sweeping the sidewalk in front of my Charles Street business, I had the misfortune to observe a crime.

Directly across the street from where I swept, at 2 p.m., an old drunk catnapped on a ''City That Reads'' bus bench. Two persons I had seen loitering earlier took this opportunity to nonchalantly rifle through the drunk's pockets. They tossed this poor old man around like a rag doll and searched him thoroughly.

I placed a call to 911 and gave the location, description, etc. I wanted so badly to interrupt, but I didn't know the perpetrators' arms status. I felt so helpless. I could have gotten my gun and stopped the crime, detained the criminals and found myself in jail for some ironic bureaucratic technicality.

I know better than to intervene. I pay taxes for the police to do the intervening. The thieves finished rolling the drunk and moved on to the opposite corner, sat on a wall and drank from their bottle. One urinated on a car parked at the curb. As I waited for the police to arrive a third man sat next to the drunk and proceeded to go through his pockets yet again. I could have told him he was wasting his time, but I hesitate to speak to anybody on Baltimore's mean streets.

When the police arrived, I pointed out the three thieves in the next block. I spoke to one of the responding officers, explained all I had seen, etc., and was very politely told that if the drunk didn't care to press charges, there was nothing that could be done. Ah-ha, I thought, no wonder criminals in this town are so carefree.

That drunk was unable to protect himself or even cry for help. A crime was committed and witnessed. I know it would be expecting too much for the police to remove drunks from bus stops. But what about robbery?

I am truly shocked that the word of a tax-paying merchant holds no weight in this city. I am further shocked that there is no avenue of action available to stem the flow of crime.

Community involvement? Most of the community has moved away and those left behind are powerless. The police are powerless. The street is full of empty buildings and the tax burden increases on those remaining behind.

I am drowning under my current tax burden and the only suggestion the city has for me is to pay for private security patrols. The streets are filthy and the Downtown Partnership wants me to pay extra for street sweepers. The homeless are hungry and every charity is wanting me to contribute food and money. Excuse me for asking, but just what are my tax dollars paying for?

I see my taxes, permit and license fees increase yearly while watching conditions deteriorate daily. Money isn't going to solve Baltimore's problems. I'd like to see the police tell me what they can do instead of what they cannot do. I'd like to see the word of a taxpayer have some weight. I'd like to see the city make a real effort to identify and isolate the worst of the street criminals. I'd also like to win the lottery, and I guess I have about the same odds.

It looks as though toughing it out is a losing proposition. I must now make plans to uproot my business, my family, my good name and move away. If there were even a glimmer of a solution -- a plan. . . .

Surely we can find the balance between the rights of the accused and the responsibilities of every citizen. I do not recall the Constitution guaranteeing anyone the right to parasitism. How can we ever get a handle on crime when there is no deterrent?

Prison is no deterrent -- it's Reunion Hall. Criminals do not need to socialize with their peers as much as they need to be isolated from peer influence. Prisons should be nothing more than cells -- no yards, no gyms, no recreation rooms, no television.

Prisoners do not need gyms, they need books. We treat our criminals better than our homeless. We treat our criminals much better than their victims.

When our government has abdicated its responsibility to protect us, we should claim that responsibility for ourselves.

Baltimore has far too many criminals now for me to protect myself. It seems my only option is to move.

Good-bye, hometown. I only wish I could have said good-bye to all those customers who, in their desire to avoid crime, no longer come downtown.

D. Martin


Abuse Victims

After reading of Dr. Paul McHugh's "distaste for three fashions" in the Nov. 24 Sun, it is evident why the anti-psychiatry movement has existed for 30 years. Dr. McHugh's callous

remarks regarding "hidden child abuse," "victimhood" and memories of sexual abuse indicate how the public needs to be continually educated about incest and sexual abuse, the types of treatment for survivors and exploration of the recovery process.

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