Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hopkins Slasher, Kennedy Krieger hand and bag Shooting, Police crotch shooting: The Crisis of Crime in Baltimore

There have been a lot of disheartening stories about crime in Baltimore this year, but 3 are linked in Buz's iconoclastic mind: the shooting of 2 Kennedy Krieger Institute employees shot as they left work recently, not even victims or involved, but the errant shots of an angry, violent thuggy-wuggy dad who never grew up, and didn't believe in calling the cops (one of the gals was not actually shot as her handbag and contents deflected the round); the shooting by an off-duty officer of another thuggy-wuggy who, at gunpoint tried to force the officer to the floor in his own home (sources tell us that the bad guy was shot twice in his penis); and the killing of the career criminal burglar by the Hopkins undergrad this morning.

While the stats show that crime is "down" to many year lows, one has to wonder if the system of measurement is faulty. And though we are pleased that the commish and his team are doing a good job keeping murders down, along with nonfatal shootings, we have to wonder if police intervention in a private civil war is actually having the unexpected side effect of causing other criminals in other areas to be bold and not expect to get caught. And of course, with the economy still in shambles, things will probably get worse before they get better.

I wonder about the criminal justice system, not just the police, and how many, many repeat offenders are out there, who may have been stopped much earlier in their careers with proper interventions or prison.
Our police patrol force has been cut to the bone: each district has, at last check, been assigned 160 officers, for around the clock coverage--no matter how large the district or how bad its problems: the thinking is : the Violent Crimes Impact Division will take care of it. We hope


Anonymous said...

The fault lies directly on Pat Jessamy's shoulders. In her attempts to make Baltimore atone for past social injustices, she sets the "shackled young black man" free, only to have him turn around and kill another black man.

It's unintentional genocide.

buzoncrime said...

Anonymous---I'm not certain if the fault is directly Pat Jessamy's. There's no doubt that this country has had its share of past "social injustice", and that Ms. Jessamy came of age during the civil rights movement.

However, the State's Attorney's Office prosecutes, every day, criminals for serious crimes. Many of their staff are hardworking public servants who deserve our debt of gratitude.

But, I think the office is lacking in some basic value judgments in many cases. Yeah, if you want to be very strict and "holier than thou", sometimes the evidence is shit and illegally obtained (remember the police lieutenant who grabbed the cellphone from a gangbanger, and it had a message on it: I killed two white people today and one was a woman?). But sometimes, ya say to the clown: well, we'll see you in court, and we'll let the judge or jury through it out. There are many cases like this. How about the sword "victim"/burglar. Just because an officer witness was in Iraq, you stet or nolle prosse a gun charge? What about television testimony, sworn, or a sworn affidavit? Or asking the military to fly him back of a day of testimony? Or something?
I think sometimes the SAO gives up too easily.

Recently, I've learned from my nonprofit work, that State's Attorneys in domestic violence cases refuse to drop charges first time around when the woman victim doesn't show. They ask for a postponement. Which means Mr. Violent can spend another month in Central Booking (the seventh circle of hell). What this does, it often gets them to plead guilty to something in order to get out of jail that day.
Why can't the same aggressiveness be applied to other crimes?

When one visits the courthouse (it's like an armed camp), it is very sad to see the parade of black men, sometimes adolescents, in handcuffs and shackles, being taken thru the hallways to various courtrooms. There's something really weird about for any sensitive person, until you realize, that they are in custody for a reason.

The FBI just recently released stats that a black male has a 6 times greater chance of being murdered than a white male.

ppatin said...

I seem to recall hearing that the Circuit Court for Baltimore City only had the resources to try 5% of the felony cases that were charged in a year. The other 95% have to be pled out, stetted or nol-prosse'd. I don't know if that number is exactly accurate, but the problem of too much crime, too few resources is certainly there. I'm no fan of PJ's and I think she's far from the most qualified person for her job, but even the best prosecutor in the world can only do so much with the resources at hand.

buzoncrime said...

Well stated, PP! And the problem with the huge numbers is that we have an ever-spiraling situation wherein people commit crimes, nothing much happens, then they think they "punked" the system, and keep on doing stuff.

We wish there was some way for someone to whisper in a young man's ears that the street life of crime and thuggery is, at best, an uncertain future full of risk.
However, as Peter Moskos writes in his book: drug dealers always get laid. Criminal tough guys are looked upon in some quarters as "sexy" and "dangerous/cool". Until that somehow changes, men like the suspect, Mr. Rice, don't wake up til they're in their upper 40s (he hadn't got the message yet), and realize they have led a life without a future, no education, no job prospects, and unless a nice woman (mom/grandmom/wife/girlfriend) take them in, they often face homelessness and poverty.

Andymon said...

Well at least the Glenham groin groaner probably won't be hooking up with any nice women when he gets out.

buzoncrime said...

From what I heard, his chances of living are not good. And his chances of having some good sex with a woman who thinks he "dangerous" are even less--lot of blood vessels down there.

In any case, if people are attempting to force an off-duty officer into his house in broad daylight, are any of us safe?

The good citizens in the greater Hamilton area are trying to hang on despite the huge surge of activity by thugs in the area, and all of Northeastern District.

And don't even bother to talk about Charles Village!
Or the area just north of Hopkins "bio-tech" area.

ppatin said...

"Or the area just north of Hopkins "bio-tech" area."

Are you talking about the area to the North of JHMI? Who in their right mind would live up there, or is all of the new housing they're building going to be Section 8? I'm wary of Butcher's Hill & Upper Fells Point, I can't believe that anyone would seriously consider moving north of the bio park.

buzoncrime said...

Yes, I was talking about the area north of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. I have read literature and articles in the paper about how this area will be "transformed" into housing for residents, doctors, and students, etc., with the usual shops, offices, "mixed-use" nonsense.

I'm sure after I'm dead and long gone that may be a reality, perhaps like the continual gentrification of Federal Hill, and a few other areas. But you and I are on the same page here: nobody in their right mind should consider living there anytime soon, except some urban pioneers, perhaps artists and gays who often lead the way.

My wife and I own a rental property in Hampden. Our current tenant lived in Butcher's Hill till she leased our place with her two daughters. When I asked why she was changing neighborhoods, she said she did not feel safe coming home after dark, particularly if she had to park her car north of Baltimore Street. I always recommend that my relocation clients use caution before deciding to rent north of Baltimore Street. Some blocks are ok up to Fairmount, but mostly not.
And the area northeast of the Park is seeing crime move down from the McEdlerry-Decker/Monument Street area, making that area, even south of Baltimore risky. I think Sean has a house in that area, and can speak to that more.
Upper Fells Point can be dicey at some places, mostly ok. Last year I was taking a retired professor to Obrycki's and we parked a block away. While walking there, a violent street fight broke out among several people, apparently over drug money. It was weird; it was like we weren't even there, and it was over before it started, and everybody left. Scary for the professor though: he said: Does this show typical Baltimore?

Andymon said...

The good citizens in the greater Hamilton area are trying to hang on despite the huge surge of activity by thugs in the area, and all of Northeastern District. And don't even bother to talk about Charles Village or the area just north of Hopkins "bio-tech" area.

I think the precipitous decline in the NE district is due to the influx of EBDI refugees Hamilton-Lauraville was one of the last remaining decent affordable neighborhoods when those folks were bought out. Thanks, Johns Hopkins!! Thank you Sheila!

Maybe we should put up signage: "This neighborhood is patrolled by samurai!"

It is now as in the days of yore when the sword ruled all things.
/ Est ist hier wie in den alten Zeiten Wo die Klinge noch alles that bedeuten.
- Schiller,
Wallenstein's Lager VI, 140

buzoncrime said...

Andy---I think that not just the folks from East Baltimore Development Incorporated are coming in the area in droves, but we're still feeling the effects of the demoliton of Flag House Courts, Lafayette, and the west side projects.
People from those projects mostly all want a better life (in my earliest memory my family lived in Perkins), but when their children get to be to old to handle, it's difficulut to overcome the lure and culture of the street.
The CHUM area has always been bad; and the last decade of Northern High School's existence was a canary for the area.

There are many wonderful people still in Hamilton and they have active community assoications under the Harbel umbrella; Lauraville still is a nice-looking place, and a lot of new restaurants have opened in the area. But it has become real block by block as far as crime. Belair Road is done; and prostitution is openly done on Harford Road; coke and other drugs everywhere. Like many areas, it is trying to stop the spread of blight.

Andymon said...

I took a meandering route through Lauraville one afternoon recently when Harford Rd s. was blocked off for an accident or an extended fire station event. It looked pretty bad to me, nothing but Pookies and their baby mamas sitting on their porches eye-f*cking anyone who passed by. Although the houses and trees still looked beautiful. I'm glad I didn't buy there, not that Hamilton (or Parkville!) are much better.

And I thought most of the housing project demolitions occurred awhile back. Hamilton seems to have gotten much worse in the past 3-4 years.

Re: hooking I am fairly sure there was a working girl living on my block a few years ago. I used to see her walking up to Harford Rd around 11 at night in minimal attire. I never [ahem] tried to verify my suspicions. As my late brother used to say, if she looks good, she's a cop. If she looks real good, she's a he.

John said...

Regarding Ms. Jessamy, she does a decent job when all things are considered, but the amount of internal politics played within that office is astounding. Unless you are connected, you want to do your time in the office and get out. Join a private firm or transfer to another municipality. My biggest criticism however was during Mayor O'Malley's tenure when there was a complete and utter breakdown in communication between the SAO and the BPD.

Regarding your suggestion Buz,

"What about television testimony, sworn, or a sworn affidavit? Or asking the military to fly him back of a day of testimony? Or something?"

I agree it can be frustrating when good cases become NPs through not fault of the State, but the 1st suggestion would likely be technologically impossible, the second is Constitutionally impossible, and the third is likely logistically impossible. I can really only speak to the 2nd, but as the 6th Amendment is currently interpreted, the witness (with few exceptions) had better be sitting in that box in the court room.

buzoncrime said...

Andy--heh,heh---that's a good one! I have seen prostitutes during the day walking along Harford Road, generally between the County line and Northern Parkway, getting into cars, going down small side streets a block away, etc.

I agree that Northeast Baltimore, Hamilton, and to a degree parts of Parkville have gone "downhill" in the last several years, dramatically coming to the public's attention with the murder of Councilman Young in Northwood last year. I attended a meeting after the shooting at the Northeastern District and the citizens, mostly African-American taxpayers, were very frustrated with the growing crime and disorder, and long police response times to calls for service. And they blasted the fact that the Northeastern District, despite being the largest in the city, has the same number of officers assigned as every other.
I agree: I would not walk down most streets in Hamilton/Lauraville after dark unless I was very familiar with the area and where I was going.

A number of interesting bars and restaurants have opened in Hamilton and Lauraville during the last several years, but I don't go to them after dark. And the residents are struggling in this economy with the fairly large number of vacant storefronts along the Harford Road business district.

And yes, your statement about the project demolitions is correct; they happened several years ago. However, I think those folks are still moving around and about the city, not staying in their original places after their move.

John---thanks for trying to keep me straight! The point of my comment is that there doesn't, sometimes, seems to be any creativity from the SAOs office or the bench. I'm all for the defendant getting a fair trial, but the citizens, represented by the state, deserve a fair trial too.
I'm not so sure that a video conference via satellite or internet from Iraq would be technically impossible, except for the fact that perhaps one or both of parties may have to adjust their time schedules. I remember that President Bush used to have video conferences with his Iraq commanders all the time. And I'm pretty sure video conference are held by multi-national corporations frequently. But perhaps others more technically astute than I could comment on that.
And who woulda thunk, say 15 years ago, that bail reviews by judges would routinely be held on video so the accused doesn't have to be moved to court for them?
Certainly, I don't pretend to be a lawyer, but aren't there other cases where evidence absent witness testimony is used? I am thinking of domestic violence cases, particularly, where the police report/interview with the victim and pictures are used at times. And in this case, weren't two other police officers present at least part of the time (according to some news reports)?
And I agree that flying an officer in from Iraq for a trial, and having the defendant postpone it again while he's here, perhaps, would be a pain, there doesn't seem to be any reluctance for other important folks to fly there and back and visit all the time. I mean, what's the federal government's commitment to crime fighting, anyway? I know, I say some of this tongue in cheek, but my point was that perhaps the SAO gives up too easily on important cases; sometimes, perhaps, you go for the case, and let the court, or the higher courts throw it out.

Your comment on the SAO and O'Malley is a good one. I'm glad that Dixon and Bealefeld are not buying into that game of in your face blaming. One can read the blog of ex-ASA Page Croyder on Marc Steiner's site and it only confirms what you just said. Having said that, many public agencies are rife with internal politics; I guess that's just the nature of the beast.

ppatin said...

I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to play one on TV, but here's my understanding of how some of the issues with witnesses work. A witness's grand jury testimony can be admitted as evidence in a trial (at least in the Federal system, it probably varies from state to state depending on the rules of evidence and criminal procedure) under very limited circumstances. There have been cases where the grand jury testimony of murdered witnesses was used at a trial, but those sorts of exceptions are rare and require pretty extreme circumstances. If an officer is on a military assignment I don't think that would pass muster.

I can't think of any technical reason why televised testimony wouldn't work though, and it seems at least possible that it's constitutional. Closed circuit TV has been used for testimony in child sex abuse cases to spare the victim the experience of having to go to court, so it's clearly constitutional under at least some circumstances.

John Galt said...

It seems to me that we all have to stop treating the criminal justice 'system' in Baltimore City as if it almost kinda works.

It's not a little bit off.

It's completely dysfunctional. I don't care whether you look at the caseload-based Null Pro's from the SA, the suspended sentences from judges, the Not Guilty's from demographically questionable jury panels, jaded overloaded cops, or PO's who don't like field work, so they haven't a clue what their hundreds of cases are doing to us after release.

I recommend that Maryland's authority to attend to locally delegate criminal law (prosecutors, public defenders, courts, juries, to local offices with local staffing be suspended.

Instead, juries should be drawn (as in the federal system) from a more statewide population, which is less likely to be criminally-associated than just Baltimore locals.

If resources for criminal justice are disproportionate to the criminality burden in this sorry city, then the state/federal authorities ought to even the playing field just as they do with schools.

Where does the $$$ come from? Cut entitlements and discretionary.

Where do competent, non-criminally-associated functionaries come from??

Outside Baltimore.

You have an army of hoodlums who run this city; you'd need an army of CJ professionals (from somewhere else in middle america) to fix it.

And there simply is no higher priority. This place is a cesspool. Just look at ACORN.

Like St. Patrick, you need to drive the serpents out. And trust me, Baltimore will be a very, very sparsely populated place once that's been achieved.

I trust you all read about the Baltimore City public defender who neglected to disclose that fact when empanelled on a jury and then stonewalled a pretty straightforward murder trial into mistrial?

The level of criminal-tolerance here is so off the chain that Baltimore people (taken in the aggregate) will never be right-minded enough to clean their own nest.

It must be imposed from without, either by the State of Maryland (which abides Baltimore's behavior so long as it can abundantly supply the votes of its large dysfunctional population) or by the Feds.

I'm afraid to live here anymore. The samurai thing was a block from my house. It's getting to be: kill or be killed. Either way, I'm screwed.

I used to at least think there were some well-intended, right-thinking people on my side, slowly making progress revitalizing a once-great city to live in.

I no longer feel that way. I feel more like one of a handful mice in a pit teeming with snakes, just waiting to pick us off, one by one.

I think decent people need to get the hell out of here as so many did in the 70's-80's. Baltimore wants to be a hellhole.

Andymon said...

I found a (non-fancy, utilitarian) "tactical" katana in my closet last night that I forgot I owned. I had meant to wrap the handle with a leather binding for added comfort but never got around to it. Now I'm ready!!!!

ppatin said...


I finally found an update on the case of Lamar Harris and Lee Stephens. Apparently the case is STILL working its way through pre-trial motions.

buzoncrime said...

Thanks! I'm glad these two clowns might yet get what they deserve!