Here in Baltimore, we talk about crime a lot. Even when we’re not discussing crime, we’re still discussing crime. Much like the way neighbors bond over a blizzard or unexplained power outage, crime brings people together in neighborhoods across the city.
Except when it doesn’t.
I was involved in a particularly unpleasant exchange on Twitter (okay, I totally butt into an ongoing conversation) between Justin Fenton, crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, a good friend (I’ll call her LR), and a random man who I picture as a puppy-kicker and wife-beater combo. Maybe that’s a little biased, but he wasn’t nice.
A few days ago, a man in Bolton Hill (overall, a nice neighborhood) was robbed outside his home, inside his home, and then driven around the city in the back of his car while the robbers withdrew money from various ATM machines. LR suggested that perhaps the police should have alerted the neighbors — a reasonable expectation — instead of having the news story and subsequent police bulletin show up randomly a week later. Justin Fenton, who I’m sure hears all sorts of crazy crap from the slackjaws who tend to comment on crime stories in the Sun, said that it’s difficult for news reporters to always report on things in a timely fashion, because sometimes the police are less than cooperative when asked for information about crime — hence the lateness of some crime stories. Again, a reasonable assertion.
Then comes the random guy (I’ll call him RG) — claiming that if the police issued alerts every time a crime happened, it would cause “mass hysteria” or people would become “apathetic” to the alerts. Then, of course we were subjected to one of the Common Baltimore Arguments About Crime: LR was simply expecting to be alerted because she lives in Bolton Hill (read: uppity snooty folks think they deserve more than the rest of us) and if this happened in RG’s neighborhood, none of us (especially the snooty lady from Bolton Hill) would give a damn. At which point, LR and I both got off the crazy train and allowed RG the pleasure of tweeting to…himself…and his followers.
But this brings me to the point of this post, in albeit a rather roundabout way. What is it about crime in Baltimore that it overtakes every aspect of our lives? It’s like black mold in Chinese-made drywall. Just when you think it’s gone — wham….here comes yet another aspect of your life that’s affected — usually in a negative, or very odd, way.
Just one example: I have become an expert at stealth surveillance, and can spot a potential pickpocket, rapist, robber, or general ne’er-do-well a mile away. I am also an expert at plotting escape routes on the fly, can memorize bizarre details about what the people around me are doing or wearing, and I wear big rings — not only because I like big rings, but because I’m convinced they’ll make good (and legal!) weapons, if need be. I’ve put considerable time into thinking about this, as perhaps you can tell.
Because I have been the victim of a violent crime. More than once. In Baltimore, two-and-a-half times. I say “half” because the potential third crime never actually commenced, as I (and my 4″ heel) gained the upper hand. Huzzah!
You never truly realize how pervasive Baltimore’s criminal culture is until it directly affects your life, or that of someone close to you. Until then, it’s just a story by Justin Fenton, or something you see on TV as you’re doing the dishes. It’s like being sprayed by a skunk — you never realize how truly mind-blowingly bad it is until you’ve tried (for the third or fourth time, unsuccessfully) to wash it away. Then one day it starts to dawn on you…it’s everywhere. As you may have guessed, this is only the first in a series of posts about crime in Baltimore, and how it affects you in ways you’ve probably never thought of before.
Oh, and the alerts from the police department I mentioned before? There was a program for that — released with quite a bit of fanfare, if I recall. I signed up, and Have. Never. Received. A. Single. Text.
Welcome to Baltimore.