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Walking the Walk in south Baltimore

Posted by hughes_mark
  • Wednesday, 4 November 2009 at 11:18 am
I spent last night walking the streets with the Southern District Police and Community Relations Council.

The group is comprised of local residents who, once a month, patrol the blocks in their neighbourhood. The idea is to create a visible presence to show those locals who have caused a nuisance (drug dealers/users) that the community is unwilling to stand for it.
They invited me to join them on their monthly walk last night. We met at Riverside Park and walked for more than an hour around the surrounding streets. The residents on the walks are accompanied by two police officers – a major and a sergeant – and it gives people an opportunity to tell the police about problem areas/people in their neighbourhood.
Last night, however, the cops were called upon to carry out more traditional police work. Two known drug users had already been told to leave the area when we spotted them again on a different street. The pair were cuffed and arrested.
More than 20 residents took part in the walk and, while they accept that walking the street once a month is unlikely to stop the more serious crimes or address the high homicide rates, they do create a hostile environment for drug dealers.
Last night’s walk showed to me that there are many people in Baltimore that really care about their city and their neighbourhood. Two people on the walk didn’t even live in Baltimore; they live in Philadelphia, but own a rowhouse here which they rent out. They had driven two hours to take part in the walk just to show that they recognise some of the area’s problems and want to help address them.
It is true, however, that the Southern District, where we walked last night, is not as crime-ridden as similar neighbourhoods in the east and west of the city. I’m told walks do exist there although aren’t as well supported. It seems that in certain regions there is an apathy and people are either too scared to help the police or simply feel it isn’t their duty to do so.