Find your trigger-happy place?

New city slogan riffs on crime

May 11, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

The City That Reads became the City That Bleeds.

Get In on It became Get In on Crime.

Now we have a new feel-good slogan for the city. A half-million dollars bought "Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore."

It took just a few hours for a city cynic to post a comment to the Baltimore Sun's Crime Beat blog to turn that into "Find Your Trigger-Happy Place."

Yes, Baltimore is enjoying a 33-year low in homicides. Shootings have fallen by more than half in the last year, from 225 during the first four months of 2009 to 102 from January through April this year. The governor just hailed a 35-year crime low for Maryland.

But Baltimore is still among the most dangerous cities in America. Last year, we were racing Detroit for the top spot in per-capita murder. The Motor City beat out Charm City by a hair, and only after their cops got caught not counting a bunch of killings.

There's nothing wrong with trying to promote the city, as long as long as we don't gloss over the bad. We can get more tourists to the Inner Harbor by actually making neighborhoods safer than we can by attempting to distract would-be visitors with happy talk.

Baltimore's police commissioner has said that one violent incident at the Inner Harbor — and there were several attacks last summer — can "indict the whole city." Slogans can't fix that. In fact, they tend to backfire when bad events overtake noble public relations initiatives.

"Yeah, I found my happy place — 150 miles away," a reader posted on the blog.

"The real crime is that the city paid for that idiotic slogan which is bursting with potential for hilarious misinterpretation," Jackie Watts posted on the newspaper's comments section.

By that she means the sexual innuendo the slogan conjures up. But Crime Scenes is about crime, and there's no need to get off topic. We won't get into the Preakness slogan, "Get Your Preak On."

"Baltimore — Find Your Hiding Place."

That one comes from Gary McLhinney, the always-ready-for-a-sound-bite former city cop (he once quipped that a study on shooting trends served only to warn citizens to duck), union president and chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. He came up with that one while in a meeting and texted it to The Baltimore Sun.

Jerry "Buz" Busnuk, a retired Baltimore police commander who runs a security consulting business and writes a crime blog, noted that "I guess you can come to Baltimore and have fun for a weekend."

He mentioned the Pimlico infield on Preakness day (this year's, with alcohol — not last year's dry run). Federal Hill on Friday night. The gang members who dined on lobster in the state prison last year. The drug dealer named Don Papa who boasted three years ago that he made $180,000 in one night selling drugs on Pennsylvania Avenue.

He called the street "a freaking gold mine," and according to a transcript in a federal court file, told detectives: "This is the heroin capital of America, ain't no more dope sold nowhere than right there on Pennsylvania Avenue."

"He thought this place was Nirvana," Busnuk said. "Wasn't he in a happy place?"

But seriously, the former cop turned citizen and still a North Baltimore taxpayer noted, "I haven't gotten over 'Get In on It' yet." He added, "Is it every year that we pay for a new saying? Do these logos really do anything, and can't we just stick with one for a while?"

The city is in the midst of a budget crisis, talking about cutting cops and libraries among other positions and programs. The police pension system is near collapse, and officers are threatening to leave in droves.

Cops once put "The City That Bleeds" on their personal T-shirts. Let's see what they come up with for Happy Place.

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