Sunday, May 18, 2008
A Drive home at night thru Baltimore in Search of a Snack
Buz had finished up some work at a nonprofit in Northeast Baltimore and headed for home in Medfield, typically a 25-minute ride away. However, he had worked straight through the evening and had not had anything to eat. So, he wandered home in search of a place to grab a quick bite. However, the ever-present threat of crime snarled him and made him reflect on the extent to which crime in Baltimore affects our economic behavior.
And the extent to which our city is hyper-segregated, to a large degree, by race, class, socioeconomics, and perceived safety. (Not to mention real safety).
He first drove west on Belvedere Avenue and got to York Road. The closed Taste restaurant was on his right. I speculate that one of the reasons Taste restaurant closed (besides its high prices) was its location: I've often noticed groups of young, tough-looking guys walking around the area in the night on my way home from the nonprofit. I just couldn't imagine people with a lot of money, parking their car in the area, and sitting outside by York Road, and peacefully eating without being worried a bit.
The consultant turned south on York Road and considered the Wendy in the heart of Govans; however, the area felt dark and threatening, and he felt out of place [scaredy cat!]. He then continued south through the crowded area of the 5400 block of York--just north of Woodbourne. No stopping here. He then looked at at he McDonald's and the Popeye's down by Winston Avenue. There were crowds lined up in both places, but it felt isolated and unsafe. Buz felt he would stand out too much to go in to either [fraidy cat!].
Still hungry, he turned west onto Coldspring and pulled up at the Royal Farm Store; it was well after 9pm, approaching 9:30. The staff took forever to get his order. Several big, tough-looking guys came in, one with his pants way down on his buttocks exposing most of the rear of his boxer shorts. They all gathered in the back of the store; Buz recalled that this store had been held up numerous times; he felt he had to pay quickly and get out of there before a holdup went down; he didn' t feel safe.
Buz gulped his hot dogs down on his way home. He never used to be so chickenshit, but realized intuitively how much he stood out: white male, 50-something, with polo shirt and khakis: victim with money. Though Buz is 6 feet and 215 lbs., he doesn't feel able to fight off a determined fit robber or two, though, and wonders about this concealed carry stuff. Would he have stopped in the Wendy's if he was packin' heat?
Is ppatin really right? Buz has to believe that, though crime is "down" (from very high levels) the perception of crime is high and the perception of citizen safety is not very high. He has to believe that fast food restaurants and other businesses would do much better business if they felt safe for hungry guys like me. (And for hungry gals too).
The consultant notes that on this little typical drive home, he never saw a single police patrol of any kind. Many years ago, one of the officers who worked for me, and came from a background of many residences in a military family, remarked what a heavy police presence Baltimore had for such a large city. Sadly, that is long gone: the cops are all "somewhere", "busy", or detailed to specialized units or our Vietnam-like crime areas.
I was wondering what others think.