Armed against crime Liquor store holdup: Gun-toting city shopkeepers make a bad situation even worse.

October 02, 1997

LIQUOR STORE owner Sung Kim shot and killed a robber Monday. The assailant will never rob again. But Mr. Kim has not freed himself of being robbed again. He also killed a bandit less than two years ago. People in the neighborhood know that. They know he packs a weapon. But fear of death doesn't always stop those desperate enough to rob, especially if it's to buy drugs.

By arming himself, Mr. Kim increased the likelihood of violence when a robbery occurred. This time, he got the upper hand. Police say Mr. Kim struggled with his assailant over the gun. The outcome could have just as easily gone the other way. That Mr. Kim would take that risk rather than depend on police for protection must concern every Baltimorean.

Mr. Kim's store, Bay City Liquors, isn't located in one of Baltimore's more dangerous neighborhoods. Largely residential, the Northeast Police District that the store is in has several shopping centers and includes Morgan State University. The district is served daily by more than 230 police officers, including a five-person Street Crimes Unit, seven-person Hot Spots team and an 11-person Major Crimes Unit. And apparently that's still not enough.

In fact, police had added patrols to the Frankford Avenue area the past 10 days because of a rash of recent liquor store robberies. But they weren't at Bay City Liquors when the robbery attempt occurred Monday. Other liquor store owners, noting the fallibility of police, praised Mr. Kim and said they, too, are armed and ready to take matters into their own hands. They need to stop and think about that.

Baltimore has become a city where a 3-year-old child can be shot and killed while sitting in a barber's chair, where a young college student can be shot dead because he drove his car down the ZTC wrong alley, where people riding the bus home from work have to dodge fatal gunfire. In targeting guns and the people who carry them, police have reduced crime. But the danger that remains is too great.

This city has developed a culture of violence in which lives taken for granted are too easily lost. Store owners who arm themselves only make the problem worse. They want to protect their property, but they're putting their own lives at risk. Citizens must work with the police, but they shouldn't try to take their place.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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