A 10th floor view of crime

A downtown resident says the St. Patrick's Day melee was nothing new — and neither was the police department's under-reporting

May 29, 2012

I have been living downtown in the Central Business District for the past six years at one of the nightly hot spots — Saratoga Street and Guilford Avenue. This is the home of the infamous Club One (now a parking, lot after the liquor license was finally revoked after dozens of massive street fights and two shootings in the street), the recently closed Bourbon Street (after a number of fights and finally a massive four-person stabbing and their insurance being revoked) and Sonar (whose liquor license has been revoked), as well as a homeless shelter. I have seen things from the vantage point of my balcony 100 feet above the street that could not accurately be described without having actually been there to witness them. These events often go totally unreported or are briefly mentioned in The Sun's "Around the Region" page where there is a location map and a one sentence description of the event.

Within several days of the St. Patrick's Day melee, the police shut down a party at Sonar that was largely populated by drunken under-aged patrons at 11 p.m., resulting in a stampede of a couple hundred youths running in a westerly direction up Saratoga. They literally ran right up over parked cars, with a couple youths stopping to stomp in the roof and windows of one of the cars parked in front of my building. The police were in pursuit and grabbed one of the stompers. The street was shut down for a while, and many police cruisers, with sirens and flashers operating, arrived at the scene. Eventually, someone was arrested, a police report was made, and the sad owner of the car arrived to witness the damage. This was a typical downtown "bizarre scene" that is too often unreported.

In another incident that occurred a couple of years ago, there was a shooting from one moving car into another moving car in front of my building at approximately 2 a.m., and a person was thrown out of one of the cars and was lying lifelessly on the sidewalk. There had been two gunshots, which woke me from my sleep, and when I looked down to the street and saw the victim, I assumed she had been shot. The police arrived with at least 10 cruisers and ambulances. Eventually, the crime scene investigation unit arrived with multiple cars and personnel. The street was shut down, the crime scene tape went up, and the melee from the gunshots, sirens and flashing lights was something like one might see on TV. This incident also went unreported in the news.

Several years ago, I was speaking to one of my neighbors, and we came to the realization that there had been a deadly shooting within two blocks of our building in every direction within the prior six months. None of this made the news, beyond an "Around the Region" item. In The Sun's defense, accurate reporting would take a lengthy write-up (as was done with the St. Patrick's Day incidents), but without photography, it just wouldn't be able to accurately convey the situation.

The Sun has been right to challenge the police department's portrayal of the St Patrick's Day melee as "controlled." Obviously, that's a laughable assessment. This was a massive situation that went on for a couple of hours. After listening to the sirens for an hour or so, and the helicopter hovering nearby with its spotlight lighting up my building every so often, I decided to investigate and took off on my bike to check things out. At the corner of Light and Redwood streets there were a number of police cruisers and emergency vehicles, and the helicopter was hovering overhead. Many guests of the Courtyard Hotel were out in front watching the activity across the street.

I pulled up and chatted with a couple of younger business travelers, one from New York City and one from Richmond, Va., who explained that someone was down from either a stabbing or gunshot. In my years residing downtown, I have seen many such situations, and they have become somewhat routine. But both men said they had never seen anything like it and were shocked. I simply offered them a warm smile and said, "Welcome to The Wire!" Would they return? Who knows.

Despite my size (6-feet, 2-inches and 190 pounds), I avoid going out on foot after dark, and so do the other apartment residents. Some have argued that since the Central Business District apartments are almost 100 percent occupied, everything is OK. Trust me, things are not OK. Downtown is a violent area that is populated after dark by aggressive panhandlers, homeless people, roving gangs, speeding cars and motorcycles — and if all that was reported accurately, it might very well scare away tourists.

Gary Moyer, Baltimore

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