Friday, February 27, 2009

Bits of crime and security news from Baltimore

Some recent stuff about crime and security around Baltimore
  • Anna Sowers has announced that the fundraiser to be held at Pazo on Sunday has sold out. It's to benefit the Johns Hopkins brain trauma research center, and to help folks like her husband Zach who was beaten unconscious and died of his injuries several months later during a robbery in "Patterson Park". See {No visible thongs, please!}
  • Interestingly, the woman who had her house foreclosed on and became a "poster gal" for Acorn lived very close to where the Sowers bought their house during their years of hope in Baltimore after getting married and deciding to settle down here.
  • It's Buz's sense that the area just north of the Creative Alliance (the old Patterson movie theater) is struggling to hold on. The criminal activity is splashing down from Baltimore street towards the south and Canton. Of course, the collapse of the economy and the housing market have not helped. A friend at the gym told me that his brother bought a house a couple of years ago in "Patterson Park", "near Canton" , but got transferred to Atlanta. Alas, he didn't get rid of it fast enough: now "bad people" have moved in and around the area, and he can't sell it or even rent it. He had one tenant for a while, but after they left, no one has even looked at it in 6 months.
  • The lack of desirability for young professionals for living in Baltimore strikes us as somewhat alarming. In my little relocation consulting business, none of my last 5 clients rented in the city. And all were folks who the city desperately needs: fairly young, professional, and well-paid. We looked at a couple of city places on our tours, but they eventually all rented in Howard, Baltimore, or Anne Arundel counties. Now, full disclosure, it wasn't all because of concern for security or crime, but they loomed as large factors--as well as the schools.
  • John Bergbower, a retired Baltimore Police major, and his crew at John Hopkins Medical Institutions are owed a debt of gratitude from all of us for coordinating the arrest of the Hopkins' Patient Services Clerk who stole the identity of a patient suffering from kidney failure, and might possibly be in danger of dying. Guantanamo Bay should be kept open to house persons like her, along with John Thain and Bernie Madoff. They should be made to listen to Andy Harris/Frank Kratovil ads for 23 hours a day til they confess and are reformed, and declared "rehabilitated". Sorta like Patuxent used to be. (Re: Defective Delinquents)
  • Can you imagine how much identity theft goes on at other places, especially hospitals, that don't have dedicated investigative units, like Hopkins does? And, most of it is never detected as to the source. It's these clowns who have good jobs (that many people would die for), get greedy, and think that they can go on a spending spree. Oh, and think they're never going to get caught. We celebrate when one does get caught! [By the way, does anyone else notice that thieves and criminals always use their stolen money for goodies, like flat screen TVs, fancy cars, jewelry,  and such---not to pay the BGE bill or put food on the table?]
  • We see the president of the FOP is still pursuing the Commissioner on getting cops in uniform to work at bars and nightclubs. Wonder what's up with that? Are our police having trouble putting food on the table? Are they missing the pretty women that much? They are really pissed at him about this. Maybe this is why he acceded to their desires to keep them secret when they shoot and kill. Just to placate them a bit.
  • Buz has noticed the Mad River Grille in Federal Hill had a "cattle call", oops, open house for their search for new bouncers at their fine establishment. Hmmm. Wonder why they've had turnover. Could it be getting too rough there without the Off-Duty Cops right outside the door at 2am? (by the way, Buz thinks they're security was pretty good, even without the cops).
  • And all the bars at Cordish's Power Plant Live are looking fro security too (along with a bunch of other positions).
  • And Buz is still reeling at David Simon's blast at the city police in the current issue of city paper for not revealing the names of officers who kill people. But, David, they're still reporting on city cops who get arrested for stealing stuff, and get fired for beating people up and stuff.
  • Wow! That woman police officer opened up on that guy who had her in a headlock after a sergeant shot the guy; she shot him 10-15 times; I'll betcha she was pissed! I guess it's a good thing he was already dead: can you imagine A. Dwight Petit getting hold of her in a legal headlock concerning excessive use of force? It's a strange case on a number of different levels.  
Whew! there's so much going on, there isn't time to write about it all! Comments, please ! ?!


helix said...

Speaking of hired security guards, what does buz think about the idea and practicality neighborhood associations hiring security to do foot patrol through neighborhoods?

I mean, if bars do this, I think it is logical that other entities might do the same. Harbor East is very aware of the image of their area. They realize that a high-profile mugging or worse would dramatically impact the value of their condos and businesses, that's why they have a lot of security.

Now that the economy is deteriorating, we can probably expect an increase in crime. Those of us that moved into gentrified neighborhoods after things improved are probably in for a shock (although in my micro-area things are still vastly better than even 2003/2004).

I think there are a number of pros-and-cons of hired neighborhood security:

* the officers on foot would be able to get to know the neighborhood intimately, both good folks and bad
* proactive deterrence against mugging, break-ins, larceny from auto.
* enhanced "intelligence" for regular officers who respond to a scene and interact with hired foot-patrol guy.

* Does it have to be regular police? Would a the same folks that patrol the harbor east area be just as effective as actual cops? I don't know.


* Cost. I have no idea how much it costs money-wise and in administration to get security for a certain number of blocks. If not getting 24/7 coverage, then somebody has to decide which hours are good. The number of people paying, I think, would have to be huge to cover the cost without having a per household cost that is through the roof-- but then that has to be balanced by not having too large an area.

* Less coverage from regular police. If the police district finds out that so-and-so neighborhood has hired a foot patrol, would they then quietly subtract resources from that neighborhood?

* The presence of police might negatively impact what people feel about the neighborhood-- just like the blue-light cameras.

buzoncrime said...

helix---I think I'm in a better position to answer your question(s) the most people: I retired from the police department in 2001 to run just such a neighborhood security team--as Director of Field Operations for the Charles Village Community Benefits District. I stayed til late summer of 2003.

If carefully and thoughtfully managed, those programs can, I think, have an impact on perceptions of safety and in providing some services to the area. Midtown Benefits District and Charles Village have both given up on the foot patrol concept and, to a large degree, any significant security patrol (if they still have any at all)--I suspect because they were both small operations, were extraordinarily costly, and some parts of the neighborhood were what I would call "contested territory"--making them dangerous for the staff.
Bar security staff (sometimes called bouncers), are strictly for the security of the bar and sometimes for the immediate adjacent area. Their sole job is to protect the economic interests of the establishment. One of the reasons for Commissioner Bealefeld forbidding police to work at the bars was because of this narrow focus--to the detriment of larger issues.
Both Downtown Partnership and Harbor East have foot security patrols in their areas, but they're well-funded and DP has lots of staff. I wouldn't say Harbor East has a "lot" of security, except in the buildings, but you probably ride your bike thru there more than I get there.
Anirban Basu stated recently that every economic downturn has witnessed an uptick in crime.

The officers do get to know the neighborhood, but in this environment, unless they were armed (in a "contested area"), they might be intimidated by thugs--not to mention the huge expense of armed guards. There is almost certainly some deterrence, but it's very hard to measure and prove--unless you have a significant staff and are on duty all hours every day.

Guilford has a neighborhood security patrol, but is plagued by "free riders", i.e. persons who live in the neighborhood, but decline to share in the fee. If you don't have a large area, you don't have enough folks to share the cost. Conversely, if you have a large area, there'll be complaints from some about lack of patrol.

If your neighborhood is in a "bad area" or "border/contested area", mere guards, as opposed to police, can be threatened. Downtown and Harbor East are "neutral" areas, open for grabs and DP has a huge number of "Safety Guides". Harbor East, at least in the immediate condo/hotel area is "neutral" also. Of course, the criminal element makes forays into both areas particularly at night.

Police patrols are spread so thin, that a private force in the area would not affect any private deployment very much. Unlike the blue-light cameras, people in general like the presence of police--unless they bust people for marijuana or set up speed radar traps. Of course, in some neighborhoods, police are viewed as an "occupation force", disruptive of business and viewed with disdain.

So, on balance, this strategy has to be carefully weighed for its implementation. Hope this answers your question!

helix said...

Thanks, Buz, for the fascinating insight. You mentioned something very interesting: that it is hard to prove whether or not "deterrence" is working. I had forgotten about that but now I think that's a key thing to keep in mind for any security effort. Even if it works, many people will argue that the security isn't doing anything-- because they're just standing around "doing nothing".

A friend who lives in NYC once told me that "the crime problem is largely about perception". People can tolerate a fairly high level of crime and disorder as long as they feel good about where they are living. In other words, if someone doesn't like their neighborhood, bad things like crime incidents take the forefront of their thinking when they cite reasons to leave.

Anyways, hopefully most neighborhoods won't suffer too much as the economy continues to worsen. I still think the future is bright (or brighter) for many neighborhoods in the city.

buzoncrime said...

helix---deterrence varies greatly depending on the person trying to be deterred. And how can one possibly measure, scientifically, what didn't happen because of ............ A good example is cameras in businesses; firms buy them because they think they'll deter. Yes, if they're aimed at your own employees or residents or students--and if they know they're there.

But look at bank robberies: ain't a robber out there who doesn't know banks have lots of cameras (along with a lot of other types of stores). Yet, why do we see banks still getting held up--knowing the cameras are there and there's an FBI hunt for ya coming? Obviously, they weren't deterred much.

And some places, especially universities, will say something like: gee, nothing ever happens around here; why are we spending so much money on security. Why don't we, like, build a building or something.

We don't know yet where this depression is going to go. The good solid neighborhoods will probably still be good; the iffy/borderline areas will continue to struggle. And the bad areas will continue to be devastated barring massive aid and intervention.

I think the economy will eventually get better, but will probably get worse before it does; some people just don't get it yet, how bad it really is. And Maryland is relatively insulated compared to many states.