Business says crime forcing it out of city
A Mid-town venture capital firm announced in an e-mail to the mayor last week that it was moving out of Baltimore because of crime. The mayor expressed doubts that was the true reason, but either way it's an economic loss for the city at a time when people are fearing a series of random attacks from Federal Hill to Bolton Hill.
While city leaders scramble to downplay the incidents and repeat stastics that crime is down, they are moving up to 50 cops, including undercover detectives, to the Inner Harbor and downtown areas.
Mayor Sheila Dixon, talking with me on Friday, noted that a recent reported attack on a youth at the Inner Harbor turned out to be staged as a gang initiation ceremony. The kids are from Federal Hill's Digital Harbor school, and while the scenario shows that this attack wasn't random, it doesn't do much to alleviate concerns that gangs are not downtown.
Here is the e-mail from New Enterprise Associates' general counsel, Louis Citron:
Dear Mayor Dixon,
My name is Louis Citron and I am the General Counsel at New Enterprise Associates. We are a venture capital firm located at 1119 St. Paul Street and have been located in the mid town/Belvedere hotel area for nearly 30 years. We have approximately 35 employees located at this office. I also live in Roland Park.
We would like you to know that New Enterprise Associates has decided to move its Baltimore city office to Timonium. We calculated that our decision will cost the merchants in this neighborhood at least $200,000 per year in revenue as we are terminating, among others, our cleaning service and security guard, and will no longer be paying for parking spaces in the local garages, and no longer buying our lunches from local restaurants and the Maryland Club.
Our decision was a result of the high level of crime in our neighborhood. Over the last several years, many of our cars have been broken into resulting in very expensive repairs, our employees have been robbed at gun point, drug needles and used condoms have been left on our front stoop, and psychotic homeless people have menaced our employees and threatened to kill them. We have voiced our frustrations to the local community leaders and police, but the environment has only worsened. The recent local beatings by roving teenagers during the day in this neighborhood, the raucous club in the basement of the Belvedere, and other gang violence throughout the city reinforces the appropriateness of New Enterprise Associates’ decision to move in order to protect its employees.
At this point, our decision is set in motion and cannot be reversed. However, we sincerely hope that you and the city council are able to rectify these problems as we are certain other businesses also will leave the city over time. Further, now that I no longer work in the city, I might move my family out of the city too if violence and crime continue to increase in the Roland Park area. I pay too much in taxes now to live in fear and to have sewer lines back up on a regular basis into my home.
We wish you and the city only the best of luck in addressing these issues and hope that you are successful. It is in no one’s interest to see Baltimore be viewed by the nation as a crime ridden and violent city that is totally out of control.
I would be happy to further discuss at your convenience.
A day after that e-mail was sent, on Thursday, the Downtown Partnership, the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association and the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore sent out a statement about crime:
Over the past month, a series of reports have made people uneasy about the level of safety in Downtown Baltimore. In truth, statistics show that both violent crime and property crime have decreased Downtown by 40% over the last nine years and that Downtown is still one of the safest areas in Baltimore.
On any typical day, there are at least 160,000 residents, visitors, and employees in Downtown Baltimore, going about their business without incident or interruption. The residential base continues to grow every year, outpacing most other cities and placing Baltimore 7th in the country in terms of the number of residents in a downtown area. Just in the last month, there has been an abundance of conventions, graduations, and business meetings – virtually all of which turned out to be positive experiences.
However, positive statistics can be no match for the power of perception. As a result, we would like to inform the metropolitan community about the steps that are being taken in response to recent events.
Most of the problems that have occurred involve disorderly behavior by groups of young people who are traveling between school and home, or occur very late at night after bars and clubs shut down. No particular group is being targeted and, typically, the interactions do not involve violence, only some form of intimidation. When violent acts do take place, most often they occur between people who know each other.
Any act of intimidation or violence is intolerable. That's why, as Downtown advocates, we are working with the Police Department to increase coverage in the affected areas. The department has quadrupled the number of officers deployed in Downtown and the Inner Harbor, including foot and mounted patrols, and additional steps, such as undercover operations, are being taken.
Additionally, our organizations are working closely with Federal and State law enforcement, as well as with private security, through programs like the Downtown Safety Coalition. There is an extensive network of surveillance and traffic cameras that allow more strategic placements of police officers and provide an extra tool to assist with prosecution. And, of course, there are 50 uniformed Downtown Baltimore Guides and 12 Waterfront Partnership Guides on the streets and along the harbor providing extra eyes for the police and a reassuring presence to pedestrians.
Mayor Sheila Dixon and Police Commissioner Bealefeld, along with committed business leaders, property owners, residents, and non-profit organizations, are united and working toward the same goal: to curtail future incidents in Downtown Baltimore. The reason is simple -- Downtown's jobs, investment, tax revenue, and visibility are vitally important to the entire region.
Like any community, we have come together around the current disturbances and are focused on ways to avert future incidents. Through it all, though, it is important to remember that the typical Downtown experience continues to be memorable, positive, and safe.