Let's reduce our crime footprint in Maryland

August 12, 2008|By Doug Ward

There is a lot of talk today about one's carbon footprint and how we can all be "greener" in our approach to everyday living on the planet. But what impact do we have on crime - and how can we reduce it?

Just imagine: It's Friday night in a McMansion in the suburbs of Baltimore. A rich white guy settles in for the evening with a couple of martinis, some weed and a couple of lines of coke. He's not hurting anyone, right? Wrong; he's contributing to the deaths of Baltimore's unfortunate black youths. He's part of the problem. Just as driving his SUV at 85 mph while throwing his Styrofoam cup out of his driver's window isn't going green, his economic support of the drug trade isn't helping Baltimore reduce its murder rate.

Drug dealers and their violent networks aren't in the business for fun. It's a job. The illegal drug trade is an economic problem. There are buyers and sellers; price is affected by quality and supply and demand, just as any other commodity. Baltimore's violent youth subculture does not have the capacity to consume the vast quantities of drugs sold on the streets. They are wholesale distributors and retail suppliers to customers, who come in many varieties. Many are not residents of Baltimore. They are your neighbors, co-workers and members of your place of worship. Many are involved in saving the planet by buying from green companies.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, "Maryland's major seaport in Baltimore contributes to a substantial amount of international drug traffic coming into the state." Maryland's economic hub is also its illegal drug supermarket. Crime in Baltimore affects the rest of the state, and demand for drugs and stolen property from outside Baltimore fuels crime in the city. It's all connected. Criminals don't care about jurisdictional boundaries or election districts; only bureaucrats do.

If we really want to get serious about reducing violent crime in Baltimore, we need to look in the mirror. What can each of us do to help reduce our crime footprint? Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Stop the demand for illegal drugs. Don't buy them, don't use them, discourage your kids from using them, and don't look the other way when other people do.

2. Don't buy stolen goods. If the price is too good to be true, it's probably stolen.

3. Don't be a victim. Lock your car and home; put valuables and guns in a safe bolted to the floor.

4. Be a good neighbor. Watch out for others; report crimes; be a good witness; go to court and testify. Have a sense of ownership of your community.

5. Support the police. Get to know your neighborhood cops, and call them when you see something amiss. Demand action from them.

6. Support neighborhood action groups and faith-based organizations. Donate time and money; attend meetings.

7. Support youth groups and programs. Give kids good role models with whom to affiliate so they don't look to gangs and thugs for support.

8. Support education. It's the ticket out of poverty.

9. Rebuild the middle class. Cities can't survive on only the rich and the poor. Support policies to create good jobs and affordable housing.

10. Look at Baltimore as a part of a greater region. What happens in Baltimore doesn't stay in Baltimore; this ain't Vegas, hon.

It's great news that more Marylanders are saving the planet by going green. While we're doing that, let's give some thought to saving Baltimore too.

Doug Ward is director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Division of Public Safety Leadership. His e-mail is wardd@jhu.edu.

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