With the assault and robbery in Little Italy on July 21, multiple cell phone thefts—some in broad daylight—throughout the Patterson Park, Butchers Hill and Canton area in July and August, numerous break-ins and attempted break-ins throughout the Southeast, and at least one murder each in Greektown and McElderry Park, residents and the police alike are using terms like “crime wave” and “crime spike.”
Even though a number of arrests have been made in the July 21 assault—and several youths were recently arrested in connection with cell phone thefts in Baltimore–and arrests were made in the Greektown and McElderry Park murders, this summer’s events have left their mark. And they raise the question: how safe do southeast residents feel in their own neighborhoods right now?
Southeast neighbors shared with The Guide how they feel about crime in their communities, what they are doing to stay safe, and if crime has affected their plans for the future.
Jean Pula, president of the Hampstead Hill Community Association and a lifelong east Baltimore resident, says this summer’s crimes have made her more cautious and less likely to go out in the evening, especially alone.
Pula, who has been a victim of Baltimore crime several times in the past (in the 1970s in Fell’s Point) and in the 1990s (a mugging at Portugal and Washington streets that resulted in an arrest), says she grew up in Fell’s Point and has always been “acutely aware of crime in southeast Baltimore.”
Still, the recent crimes have caused Pula to change her lifestyle.
“I spend more time at home and engage in fewer social activities that take place in the evening,” she says.
Pula doesn’t think she’ll ever move out of the city, “but high taxes, fees, and persistent crime make me consider such an option from time to time,” she says.
Carol Nickerson, who has lived in Canton since 1996 and has not been a victim of a crime in the city (but was in Hunt Valley) is likewise more careful.
“We cannot allow this to impact our quality of life, and we have to work together to retain our reputation that we are a safe and caring neighborhood,” she says of Canton.
Victor Corbin says he’s always been cautious but now is “hypersensitive.”
“I have not been the victim of a crime in the southeast,” he says. “Knock on wood.”
The Upper Fells resident and president of Fell’s Prospect Community Association, says he personally feels fairly safe but now doesn’t walk alone at night. Corbin, who has lived in the area for 14 years, says he’s disappointed in the southeast’s political representatives’ response to the crimes.
“I wonder why there is not more outrage from our political official in City Hall and from Annapolis,” Corbin asks.
State Sentator Bill Ferguson (46th District), who lives on East Ave. and has lived in east Baltimore for about nine years, says he’s heard from a number of constituents about their concerns about safety in the community.
“I’ve read a number of distressing reports in The Guide as well as on various neighborhood social media sites…That all said, I have not personally felt unsafe. I walk our two dogs every evening, and I’ve always tried to be aware and mindful…But given the recent reports, I can certainly understand why some of my neighbors are increasingly concerned,” he says.
Ferguson believes the causes of the crimes are complex.
“They include the effects of generational poverty, vast inequalities between communities, ineffective parenting, drug abuse, significant under-employment, lack of structured and meaningful alternative opportunities, and a whole host of other factors that create incentive for criminal behavior. In the short term, we can work together to identify the few, persistent perpetrators and ensure that they are punished under the law. In the long term, we have to find ways to decrease the incentives that drive people to turn to crime.”
Upper Fell’s Point resident Stacey Maida says she is taking safety matters into her own hands. She recently purchased a taser and pepper spray and feels that city residents pay the most property taxes and get the least protection.
“I hate that I live in a wonderful neighborhood, but can’t really enjoy it. I wasn’t planning on growing old in Baltimore city, but I wanted to stay longer though,” she says.
“But if this keeps up, the time to go will be sooner rather than later.”
Michelle Rigby, who lives in Canton, was the victim of a daytime home invasion this past week.
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” says Rigby, who has lived in Baltimore for 13 years.
“As someone who works in the tourism community, it is disheartening to be working so hard to bring people into this city and have so much crime. I work at Celie’s Waterfront Inn in Fell’s Point, and the pan handling and crime from here to Little Italy seems to be increasing as well,” she says.
Leigh Profit says this summer’s media reports of thefts have made her more vigilant, but not paranoid.
“I use common sense…I don’t talk or text on my cell phone when out walking,” says Profit, who has lived in Canton since 2007.
“It doesn’t hurt that my dog is a Rottweiler, and I feel safe having him with me. My husband and I are definitely planning on staying [in Baltimore] a while. The city amenities, neighborhoods, restaurants, waterfront, and parks are something I am not willing to give up.”
“Overall, I feel as safe as you can living in a city,” Profit says. ”We…think that Baltimore’s benefits greatly outweigh the risks.”
by Danielle Sweeney