Friday, February 20, 2009

The mayor's lecture (her crime tip of the day) [probably not the last lecture]

Buz read with interest a recent most by Baltimore's pre-eminent crime blogger on her blog,, concerning the mayor and Police Commissioner's news conference about the huge number of larceny-from-autos in Bmore Towne. My favorite poster titled her blog with something about how our beautiful and fit mayor is trying to drive taxpaying citizens out of Baltimore. My thoughts, strange and iconoclastic as they might be:
  • She and the commish were doing nothing more than, say, a security director at a college or university might say or do when a similar crime wave occurs on a campus. Or when they are addressing the incoming Freshman class.
  • And, well, it's not really the same thing as taking all your valuables upstairs in your house or bolting your TV to the floor. It's about keeping yourself from being a victim.
  • Closing your curtains at night, and taking your wallet, purse, and cellphone upstairs with you might not be a bad idea, though. Sorry, we wish it weren't considered necessary or prudent. But the dum-dum druggie-wuggies are always looking for a quick smash and grab. They know (or think) us educated people aren't going to chase them. For the most part, they're right.
  • Like, shouldn't we be warned or told there is a problem, with some ways on keeping from becoming a victim?
  • I remember when the Virginia Tech thing went down: everybody whined afterward that the police didn't "announce" or "notify" the community of the potential problem on campus. (Though the police thought that they simply had a domestic murder, and in fact had a suspect in custody) {The killer had already been taken into custody by police on a previous occasion for psych evaluation.}
  • Ok; I can see where one might think we're being blamed. I choose to look at it as us being warned: the criminals are out there prowling around; protect your property. Unfortunately, to use a basketball metaphor, the criminal bench in Baltimore is deeper than the police/criminal justice bench. There are many copies! 
  • Why wasn't Sydnor in jail? Who knows? These guys all get "credits" from the moment they walk in the hoosegow, in addition to good behavior credits. The brains down at the General Assembly call them "diminution credits"-sort of a form of derivatives and structured investment vehicles for jail, I guess.
  • The truth is: there aren't enough prisons to hold all our criminals for full sentences; the citizens of the wealthiest state in the country don't wanna pay for nothin'. So, we know have diminution credits, good behavior time, parole, and probation.
  • Truth is and has been: the policy priority of the city is stopping/preventing murders and shootings. This latest emphasis on larceny-from-auto is a welcome event. Let's move from there to robbery!
  • I recently spoke to a Goucher senior who is one of the few of that clan who live off campus--in Charles Village, no less (next to downtown, CV has to be the world's epicenter for larceny-from-auto). She told me that last week her car window was smashed and the miscreant pawed around and thru the high level of trash she had in the car. She had nothing of value in the car. What's up with that!? We guess that in the Village, the propensity for finding a goody in a random vehicle is so high that it pays to just pick em and smash. Perhaps a Hopkins statistician could work out the algorithm in a perp's mind on this. Or perhaps he thought he saw something. Or perhaps he saw her cig lighter was missing: aha, electronic device! Or perhaps the car glass repair place needed some business. Your consultant says: I dunno. (a technical term).
  • But the sad truth is: criminal activity in Baltimore, unlike some places, is "legitimized", or excuses  made for, and a weak, overwhelmed criminal justice system struggles to deal with it. 
  • In the meantime, the city and its law-abiding inhabitants suffer.
  • All we can do is to minimize our own risk by taking all of our goodies out of the car, or putting them in our trunk BEFORE leaving to go to our destination, NOT after arriving at our destination.
  • By the way, Buz is really, really amazed at how many people leave valuable stuff in their cars, though of course no one deserves to be victimized. It's  like, well, college! We all went to our safe, protected, pretty, rural, isolated campuses and nobody ever locked their doors or anything! And, now, somebody stole my stuff!! I don't get it. I guess Baltimore is really successful at projecting this wonderful image of beauty and inspired architecture, and sophisticated urban-ness, and stuff. So, really, the mayor should be bragging about what a great place this is, how safe it feels, and it's great that people perceive that Bmore is the safest city in America. Now, let's stop locking our doors, and go out on foot wherever and jog with headphones on by ourselves. And read! Um, I think I'll lock my doors to my house tonight.


helix said...

Hey buz,

I have an idea for blog post you can do... "Being a mugging victim: best practices"

I sometimes hear advice about what to do if you're being mugged. Some people say remove wallet, throw it, and run. Other say be polite and do what the mugger asks without making eye contact. Yet I often hear about people who, in addition to being mugged, get beaten, stabbed or worse. I wonder what happened in those cases and how to avoid things worse than losing my wallet if it happens to me.

I mean things like if I am asked for my wallet, should I also volunteer my cell phone or just pretend I don't have one?

buzoncrime said...

HMMMMMMMM. Good idea for a blog post. Most experts recommend cooperation, and I generally tend to agree. But any robbery situation can be extremely situational.
Throwing your wallet and running might not be a good idea if the perp is armed with a real gun. These folks are extremely poor decision-makers, and are often very impulsive action-takers (that's why they're in the line of "work" they're in). And they're often high with false courage on booze or other substances.
For example, the African-American engineer who was getting robbed in Canton several years ago broke and ran, and got a bullet in the back for his trouble; he bled to death during the night because responding police did not find his body since he ran a couple of blocks from the gunfire before collapsing. And don't forget ex-councilman Harris, who (I guess assuming that the bar was the intended real target), broke and ran for his car before getting shot through his car window. Please note: neither the bar owner nor any of his employees were hurt, though these thugs had just killed someone.

If you're asked for your wallet, just give 'em your wallet. I wouldn't volunteer anything. But if they ask for your cell phone, I'd give that to them too. [I don't mean ME, because I might be inclined to pretend cooperation, then resist--I mean you]. One has to judge what resistance, if any, you're inclined to give well beforehand.

I'll think about this more (thinking is hard), and write a longer post, perhaps. But in general, if you feel threatened, cooperate, pretend it's a business transaction, and make it happen as quickly and as pleasantly as possible. If, as you ask, they will beat or stab or worse despite cooperation, they are probably in a position or inclination to do it anyway. Again, each case is situational.

ppatin said...


Do you think that the theory that it's safer to have an above average amount of cash in your wallet has any merit? Someone once claimed to me that if you carry more cash than the typical person (say 80 or 100 bucks) and a mugger holds you up and sees that he got more money than he expected he's more likely to be in a good mood and not hurt you just for the hell of it. BS theory, or do you think it has some validity?

buzoncrime said...

I don't think that has any validity. My street sense tells me that it is more likely for a thug to hurt you when: a.) he thinks you "disrespected" him or b.) when he hates you for some reason anyway, e.g., race, socioeconomic status, homophobia, etc., or c.) some people are just violent, mean, and nasty, and they see a "soft" target. (They're usually cowards).

As for the idea of stuffing your wallet with cash to make the creep happy, um, I just think that's ludicrous. I generally don't keep more than $60 or less in my wallet, unless I just came from the bank, etc. I always recommend to clients who have staff working in high-crime areas not to carry more than $50. City parking control agents are not allowed to carry a lot of cash.

In the past, Hopkins has suggested to students that they consider carrying a "fake" wallet, with, say, $20 in it to give up to the criminal. Sheesh! What's that say about the area around the school?

Like I said to Helix, if they're just gonna start being violent, I betcha they would do it anyway--and I don't think any tactic on your part would change that. The best thing to do, unless there is no alternative is to recognize that being cool and as calm as possible is the best way to handle the situation--usually. They're usually going to try to rob those who they feel they can safely "handle", and they have the jump on, and then can easily escape. (Of course, there are always exceptions.)

And unfortunately, there is a lot of anger by the "have-nots" against the "haves" in this town.

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