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.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The fights: City versus Mervo:scary school days

Buz has read with interest Sara Neufeld's article and blog in the Sun about the fights between kids who "attend" Mervo and "attend" City College here in Baltimore. Some commenters think that it's nothing and shouldn't even have been reported. Sorry: I disagree.
  • It seems that these weren't really "fights" at all: merely group attacks on lone students who appeared to be associated with the Other School. (Rodney King: "can't we all just get along"?) Typically, these  cowards find a student who is alone and attack as a group. It appears that a group of City students did just that--injuring a Mervo student.  Did they attack him because he did something to them or were they just out to find somebody to "bank"? Then, later, a group of Mervo students went to beat up on a City student.
  • City and Mervo are supposed to be two of the city's elite high schools, where students have to apply to get in and somehow be screened before being accepted. Wonder how Dr. Alonso's new policy will apply if the "investigation" finds a group of City students were the attackers/instigators here. We wonder if they would be expelled and sent to their zoned high school? He has recently stated that students in these schools couldn't be kicked out under standards used in the past. The schools are supposed to "work with" these students and not just flunk them out. Wonder if assaults perpetrated off school grounds mean anything. [We think Dr. Alonso is a great guy, but if the city's select high schools (City, Poly, Western, School for the Arts, Carver, Dunbar and yes, Mervo)  evolve to be just like any other of the city's high schools, the middle class in the city, who are committed to public schools, will just move out.]
  • We're glad the School Police intervened; perhaps that will put an end to it. Usually warm weather brings a rash of this stuff out, and this is not a good premonition of spring.
  • There was a really a scary post by someone claiming to be a teacher at Mervo. Apparently the hall walkers and druggies and gamblers are running amok there. When Buz worked at Walbrook a number of years ago, there were often lots, perhaps dozens, of hall walkers on many days (kids who check into school, but cut one or more or all of their classes, but not the "hundreds" cited by this teacher. I remember there was a disturbance at Mervo last year where a teacher was taken to the hospital. At Walbrook it was not unusual to have fires set in trash cans or in bathrooms {the school was never evacuated and staff put the fires out.}
  • Since City's swimming pool (like others at high schools in the city) is not usable, City's swim team has been going up to Mervo to use its pool. Since the heavy street action has occurred, a decision has been made that the team will simply not practice at Mervo since the season is almost over.
  • Several posters on Sara's blog indicate that they think this is no big deal, just kids fighting. Your consultant thinks this is a big deal, because these two schools are important in our city. City is surrounded to the east and south by the neighborhood of Coldstream-Harford-Montebello (CHUM), recently one of the most violent in the city last year, and so far this year. A young adult was recently found shot to death just on the edge of  campus on a recent weekend. Last year a student in the Baltimore Algebra Project was murdered at a bus stop just off campus. And to the north of Mervo is the Northwood shopping center, which has struggled with street crime, the scene of Councilman Harris' murder.  So, this tit-for-tat violence could very easily get out of hand. Neighborhood non-student youth could become involved.
  • An acquaintance was robbed on school property last year as he left the building after a sports meeting. Though several attackers were arrested, he declined to press charges, since "they know what I look like, and where I go to school." 
  • Buz believes that far too little is done to separate violent bullies from the school population. He believes that bullying, harassment, fights, other violence, potential violence and having to travel thru the neighborhoods on Others' Turf is what is a big factor in causing a lot of kids to drop out of school. Of course, we know there are lots of other factors, but this is the biggie-in my humble opinion.