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Baltimore Crime

Vcrimesince70Joel Kotkin says, "O'Malley's strategy in crimeinfested Baltimore -- based on attracting gays and bohemians -- strikes some as slightly superficial. What's the point of being hip and cool if you're being mugged?" Well, obviously, crime reduction is important. But crime is going down in Baltimore:

According to the data released by the FBI, 18,630 violent crimes were reported in Baltimore in 1999. In comparison, Baltimore had 11,183 violent crimes in 2003, a 40% reduction. Between 2002 and 2003, the number of violent crimes in Baltimore declined 19%, the second largest decrease among the nation's largest cities.

"These FBI numbers prove what we have known for a while," said Mayor Martin O'Malley. "Lower crime, safer neighborhoods, and a population that is no longer fleeing to the suburbs clearly indicate that Baltimore is moving in the right direction. In addition, our efforts to provide drug treatment to thousands more people have had a significant impact on crime reduction in Baltimore. I appreciate the hard work being done by everyone in every corner of the City, and these numbers are just another incentive to keep forging ahead."

Clearly, Charm City was an extremely troubled place not very long ago and still has some serious problems. But things seem to be going in a positive direction. More to the point, as is almost always the case, Kotkin manages to both be right (crime reduction is important, you can't just be cool) and wildly off-base at the same time. I don't think any mayors are idiotic enough to have the approach Kotkin attributes to O'Malley and fears will be adopted in Los Angeles, it's a total straw man. The large Kotkin-ish meta point that cities need to work for middle- and working-class families as well as people like me is well taken. Really. Very well taken. But I honestly don't think anybody denies that it's important.

And more to the point, there's no necessary opposition here.

There's more to succeessful urban revival than bringing in young, single, and/or gay people, but to make anyplace a good spot for families to live you need (among other things) good public schools which takes (among other things) tax revenue. Since people without kids will move somewhere with bad schools, getting them to come in is a good way to generate the needed retail business and tax revenue that can lay the foundation for school improvement. You need to do more, but the young/single/gay element is bound to be part of the mix.

May 20, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Well, I lived there from 1989 through early 1996. But whatever the chart says, it's not my fault.

Posted by: PaulC | May 20, 2005 3:18:35 PM

Do you have a similar graph for Homocide numbers. As you and the wire have stated several times, violent crime rates can be massaged in ways murder rates cannot.
Still, as a Baltimore resident myself, I think O'Malley's doing as good a job as can be expected. And the point you make about attracting young professionals/bohemians as a first step to improving the city is an excellent one.

Posted by: WillieStyle | May 20, 2005 3:22:27 PM

WillieStyle and other Baltimore residents:

Just before I left, they started something called the "Charles Village Community Benefits District" (near Johns Hopkins campus--university, not medical school).

It seems they still exist and even have a web page. http://www.charlesvillage.org/ Any idea if it helped? I thought at the time that the idea was promising. What I hated about Baltimore was that it seemed it ought to be so much better than it was, particularly the neighborhood around JHU, which was home to grad students and some professionals. How is it that a city the size of San Francisco has neighborhood after neighborhood with little more than some seedy bars, Wawas, and liquor stores?

Posted by: PaulC | May 20, 2005 3:32:15 PM

Does anyone have a plot of the Baltimore population compared to the murder/violent crime rate? Did the population fall and how much?

ash
['No comment on PaulC's sojurn in Baltimore. No. Really.']

Posted by: ash | May 20, 2005 3:32:17 PM

And more to the point, there's no necessary opposition here.

Not necessarily opposition, I think he's just focusing on emphasis. Where is the mayor's priority - attracting a new factory or attacting a new art museum? These aren't necessarily opposed - of course, you want both - but which will the mayor be working harder for?

Posted by: Al | May 20, 2005 3:33:23 PM

"Homocide"? Some pitches are too fat to swing at.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | May 20, 2005 3:47:44 PM

That 1999 number sure is interesting. What's the deak? A change in Baltimore police tactics or statistical techniques? Some obscure gang war? A change in the supply of drugs?

Posted by: SamAm | May 20, 2005 3:58:32 PM

"Homocide"? Some pitches are too fat to swing at.

You've found me out mate. I'm a violent bigot AND I can't spell.

Just before I left, they started something called the "Charles Village Community Benefits District" (near Johns Hopkins campus--university, not medical school).

It seems they still exist and even have a web page. http://www.charlesvillage.org/ Any idea if it helped? I thought at the time that the idea was promising. What I hated about Baltimore was that it seemed it ought to be so much better than it was, particularly the neighborhood around JHU, which was home to grad students and some professionals. How is it that a city the size of San Francisco has neighborhood after neighborhood with little more than some seedy bars, Wawas, and liquor stores?

Sorry, I can't say (not much of a life outside of school). It does seem like the Harbour area is looking up these days. Imporvements seem to be spreading out from there.

Posted by: WillieStyle | May 20, 2005 3:59:16 PM

This graph totally explains why Homicide: Life on the Street went off the air-- the cast was so successful at stopping crime in Baltimore that they ended up out of a job.

Posted by: Constantine | May 20, 2005 3:59:42 PM

This isn't encouraging:

Baltimore's homicide rate is the highest it has been since 1999: 278 murders last year, although as elsewhere, the numbers are still lower than they were a decade ago. "We have gone up for the past few years, but we are way down [from the 1990s]," says Matt Jablow, a Baltimore Police Department spokesman.

"Last Year" refers to 2004

Posted by: WillieStyle | May 20, 2005 4:09:04 PM

I grew up in charm city, and it's a lot better today - both for my friends raising families and my friends who are still in their young hipster stage. Also, any mayor of Baltimore who was primarily focused on helping bohemians and gays would (1) lose big time politically in the next election and be unpopular, which O'Malley is not and (2) would not even do a good job at what he was trying to do, since most Bohemians and Gays recognize that the wellbeing of the entire city matters, vote in ways that reflect that, AND care a lot more about the crime rate and the general employment situation then say, about art museums.

Posted by: MDtoMn | May 20, 2005 5:07:24 PM

WillieStyle, I think a lot of cities are having an uptick in violent crime this year; it's certainly the case in Boston. I don't know what the explanation is.

Posted by: Brittain33 | May 20, 2005 5:27:02 PM

I think a lot of cities are having an uptick in violent crime this year; it's certainly the case in Boston. I don't know what the explanation is.

Hatred whipped up by the rabid right looking for any available outlet.

'sgood a theory as any.


Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | May 20, 2005 5:46:40 PM

Constantine - A friend and I make the same joke about Law and Order. The first few years were a lot edgier, and they were much more likely to focus on institutional corruption in the NYPD or the DA's Dept. etc. Now it's pretty vanilla, TPTB are always right and they always get their man in the end. Which actually makes sense, that they wouldn't focus on it in the later seasons -- because they cleaned up all the corruption in the first few seasons....

Posted by: Martin | May 20, 2005 6:41:35 PM

SamAm,

"That 1999 number sure is interesting. What's the deak? A change in Baltimore police tactics or statistical techniques? Some obscure gang war? A change in the supply of drugs?"

Just before Y2K. Maybe everyone in Baltimore thought that the world was gonna end soon, so they may as well do what they pleased? After all, citizenship awards aren't worth much when Kevin Costner's post-apocalyptic visions come to fruition. Except, I guess, as projectiles with which to fend off vicious mail thieves.

Posted by: TJ | May 20, 2005 8:13:54 PM

My theory is that the economic boom in 1999 was leading to increased gentrification, causing crackdealers seeking the good life to move into the neighborhood.

Posted by: PaulC | May 20, 2005 8:19:50 PM

Please, PLEASE don't publish another graph where the Y axis STARTS AT 10,000 RATHER THAN 0. Lopping off the first 10,000 crime victims makes the curve look more dramatic to the casual viewer, but cannot help but give an erroneous impression that crime has been reduced to near zero due to the curve approaching the origin of the Y axis. The statistics don't need to be propped up with improperly constructed visuals designed to give a stilted view of the numbers.

Posted by: clem | May 20, 2005 11:42:30 PM

This is how I think that graph should look...

Posted by: clem | May 21, 2005 12:03:33 AM

True story: During the late 70's and early 80's I dated a girl whose mother was a real estate investor. She had no more than a high school education and the highest paying job she ever had was as a dental hygenist yet she was savvy enough to become a multi millionaire through real estate. Her favorite tenets where gays. She said they took the best care of her properties, she could charge them higher rents, and when they moved out they left an apartment that was tidier than any other demographic she rented to. She ended up buying a lot, and I mean a lot, of rental property in West Hollywood.

O'Malley is definately on to somethig.

Posted by: ken | May 21, 2005 2:28:04 AM

Why does anyone take Kotkin seriously?

Posted by: Bill | May 21, 2005 12:12:01 PM

Well, clearly many urban areas have done a terrible job of building new housing stock in the last several decades, which is no small part of the reason that middle class families have left for the suburbs. But even as cities seem to be getting it now, Kotkin's fantasy of an entrepeneurial, conservative, urban middle class majority will remain a fantasy. Middle class progressives with kids may be lured back from the burbs, and the more progressive whites and people of color with kids may stick around, but Archie Bunker is just not moving back to New York or San Francisco. And without a cultural sea change in red America, Bush country will continue to rely on taxpayer dollars and largesse from the federal government and blue America will continue to thrive on its own.

Posted by: Robin the Hood | May 21, 2005 3:19:19 PM

Well, clearly many urban areas have done a terrible job of building new housing stock in the last several decades, which is no small part of the reason that middle class families have left for the suburbs.

Then somebody can explain why there are plenty of middle class people still living here in Silicon Valley, overbidding by tens of thousands of dollars for a 50-year-old ranch house.

I'm actually not disputing your claim for part of the explanation. I just think that continuous renewal of housing stock is not an absolute necessity for having a high quality of life. Factors such as low crime and good jobs (if you can get 'em) make this an appealing place to live.

Posted by: PaulC | May 21, 2005 3:46:10 PM

Was flabbergasted to see this thread about our little town. Having lived in B-more throughout the Schaefer years, the Schmoke years, and now the O'Malley years, a few words from the trenches. The high crime rate in this city is driven by the drug trade. Most murder victims are young black men. Not all are involved in the drug trade. Some simply have the misfortune of pissing off the wrong people--people with guns.

The gay/bohemian strategy (first I've heard of it) is no doubt based on the fact that city public schools (with a few shining exceptions) suck. This is the main reason people move to the 'burbs when they have kids. I didn't, but wound up paying Catholic/private school tuition for all or part of my kids' school careers. Over half of Baltimore city public schools students don't graduate. Gays/bohemians tend not to be so concerned about the school issue.

The drug trade and dreadful public schools are inextricably bound up with our third big problem--lack of jobs. The decline of manufacturing has decimated this city. Union jobs in industry once provided a comfortable living for this city's working class, black and white. Gone, gone, gone.

A final note. Many of my bohemian friends are being gentrifed out of their long-time neighborhoods by Washingtonians attracted by our lower housing/rental prices. Mt. Vernon, a former gay/bohemian sanctuary, is becoming a D.C. suburb. People are ticked off by this, for good reason. Forget the gay/bohemian strategy--I think the Washington emigration is O'Malley's real plan.

Posted by: Deborah | May 23, 2005 9:18:00 AM

I live in Baltimore and I listen to the police scanner.
I know from my daily listening we have one murder a day on average in Baltimore City. A year has 365 days in it, and at a rate of 1 murder a day we have at least 365 murders a year. Ok, ok, say the bad guys take off Christmas. So we have an average of 364 murders a year!

Friends go to Radio Shack and get a Pro-96 (APCO digital scanner) and listen to the action. Baltimore is not a safe place to live, unless you live down town at the inner harbor.

Posted by: John Pusinsky | Jul 19, 2005 8:36:05 PM

According to the City Paper's weekly Murder Ink (released every Wednesday) Baltimore's homicides seem to be much lower than they were at the same time last year. I've been monitoring the trends, but hardly noticed the widening gap until now. And while the second most-violent day of the year was just last weekend, August-September have been relatively quiet.

191 as of 9/14/2005
http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=10521

Yet...there were 204 as of 9/15/2004
http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=8785

Admittedly, it's a sufficient drop and, if things go right, there could be far fewer murders in Baltimore for 2005 compared to 2004. Still, improvement of education and a drop in poverty will be the real weapons needed to drop the crime rate on a more long term basis.

Posted by: Kevin | Sep 17, 2005 12:49:06 AM

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