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June 2, 2009

A lesson learned on the Baltimore Metro

I expected a lot of horror stories in response to my posing noting a curious absence of bad news out of the Maryland Transit Administration in recent weeks.

So far, not much, except for this account of a robbery on the subway from Alisa Bralove-Scherr of Owins Mills. I thought it was worth passing on as a cautionary tale.

For the record, people I trust have told me that crime on the Metro subway is  not all running rampant because tthere is extensive surveillance camera coverage. But, unlike in DC, there are times when you don't feel the comfort of being in a crowd in the Baltimore Metro.

I'm a state employee and I take the subway from Owings Mills to Charles Center everyday. On Wednesday I left early to go to a doctor's appointment.
It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when the train pulled into the Rogers Ave. station. The doors opened and the kid sitting in front of my grabbed my iPod out of my hand and took off.
I sprung up and immediately started chasing him and yelling for the police. I followed him down the escalator. He jumped the turnstyle; I didn't.
There was an MTA police officer standing there as he ran out of the station. She was very nice in taking the report but kept repeating that I should never use a cell phone or an iPod on the subway because this happens every day. The MTA employee working in the booth told me the same thing.
The officer also noted that she didn't even pay any attention when she heard me running and screaming after the kid because the kids do that all of the time.

It was strange because I had a funny feeling a little before the kid made his move. He and two boys who sat behind me had gotten on after I did. The two behind me were clearly trying to shock or upset me. They kept screaming at random trying to scare me. I wanted to make it look like it didn't bother me so I didn't do anything. I thought about putting the iPod away and even squeezed it a little tighter, but I didn't want to show fear.
I guess I should have.

The officer did say they would check the videotape from the train and from the station. Whether the cameras were actually working is a different story.
It's so frustrating sometimes to ride public transit in Baltimore. The DC metro is so different. I was down there on Sunday night and felt completely safe, even at 10 something at night. Yet I don't feel safe at all on the Baltimore subway in broad daylight

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore Metro


I know adverts tell you everywhere (here, DC, London, NYC) not to use your devices on transit to avoid getting robbed. I find that unacceptable. Telling customers not to use their personal devices to avoid being robbed is NOT addressing the problem.

That being said, I think this problem goes beyond Baltimore. I agree that there are times on the Baltimore Metro where you are very alone compared to DC, but I've been taunted by groups of juveniles on many systems, DC, NY, and the Underground included. I haven't been in Baltimore, which is the system I use most frequently.

The city needs to address the small crimes. These are the crimes that become bigger and bigger as kids grow older and older. Stealing an IPOD is one thing but as they grow older and begin stealing cars or breaking into homes/buildings they are at comfort now. I don't ride the train unless I don't have a choice. I avoid city public transportation because it's very unsafe and no one seems like they care. People act normal when many things happen. Very stupid to say but if you were to get shot I am sure people would make an excuse for that and say it's your fault. :(

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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