Life takes you places, you follow a course that isn’t completely of your own making. One day you wake up, and it’s really all up to you. So where do you want to live? I happen to live in a city. Baltimore, to be specific.
And I’m growing to absolutely hate it here.
I’m tired of hearing about 12-year-old girls being held up at gun-point while they walk to school.
I’m tired of saying “Oh Baltimore’s great! It’s just got some crime problems.”
I’m tired of living in a major crime zone while paying the highest property taxes in the state.
I’m tired of hearing about incompetent city leaders who are more fixated on hosting the Grand Prix than dealing with thousands of vacant buildings that create massive slums, and rampant crime.
I’m tired of being looked at like prey.
I’m tired of hearing the police helicopter circling overhead every night, and seeing the spotlight shine in my window.
I’m tired of reading about juveniles arrested for violent crimes who are let go because if it’s not a “murder” case, there’s no time to worry about it, or resources to deal with it.
I’m tired of checking in on neighbor and Baltimore Sun editor Jon Fogg’s Go Fund Me page to see if his family has met their goal to raise funds to help him recover from the brutal attack he suffered as he went from his car to his front door after work.
I’m tired of being surrounded by drug addicts.
I’m tired of answering the question, “Is Baltimore really like The Wire?” Answer: “Yeah it’s a complete shit-hole war zone depending on what street you turn down”.
I’m tired of looking at 11 year olds as potential thieves, muggers and murderers on my walk home from the office.
I’m tired of living next to a beautiful park that I’m scared to walk into at any time of day, thanks to regular stories of day-time muggings, drug dealing and gang violence.
I’m tired of thinking about neighbor Zach Sowers, beat to death by a pack of kids outside his Canton home several years ago, completely unprovoked.
I’m tired of hearing people talk about how coveted the internships are at Johns Hopkins because you get “battle zone” experience.
I’m tired of wondering why city leaders haven’t said shit about recent horrific murders committed in what I used to consider “safe” neighborhoods.
I’m tired. I don’t have to live here. But I want to stay.
I want to love this city again. I want it to get the crime monkey off its back and become the amazing place and home I know it can be.
I’m very fond of my neighbors. The people who live on my street are amazing and I consider many of them good friends. They look after my house, and I look out for them. They host block parties, offer to help each other out, and are generally awesome folks, many of them raising families amidst this increasing insanity.
Baltimore City has beautiful areas to explore, amazing diversity, unique experiences and generally really nice and friendly citizens.
You’ll never have a shortage of fun and interesting places to take visitors who come to stay, just warn them not to leave anything in their car, use their iPhone while in a public area, or walk alone after dark. And make SURE they know how to set your alarm when they leave your house. And let them borrow your pit-bull if they want to roam around a little and explore the neighborhood.
For me, there are so many great things about this city, more than I can list here. They’ve made me proud to call Baltimore my home since 1996, when I moved here to go to graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art, one of the best art schools in the country.
But you just can’t ignore the crime.
It’s the elephant in the room for Baltimore City, and city officials don’t seem like they are ever going to look it square in the eye. With that kind of attitude being represented by your city’s leaders, it’s no wonder the city’s population continues to decline.
All I know is when there are more police, there is less crime. When people get arrested for littering or loitering or being publicly intoxicated, they go do that shit somewhere else, or they think twice about doing it at all. And yes, I realize this may be a knee-jerk reaction and won’t solve all the problems. But I’m desperate for some kind of help. I want to feel safe.
If you ignore the little things, you encourage worse things to happen.
For the first half of my life, it’s pretty much been outside factors that have impacted where I live. I intend to make the second half a much more deliberate and personal process. I’m going to start with asking myself what I like and what I don’t like. And then I’m going to find my home where most of the check marks fall in the “like” column.
Being afraid you will be robbed, attacked or murdered where you live will be in the “Don’t Like” list, but it really shouldn’t be in a list at all.
Yes, I’m white, and so are lots of my neighbors. I also have Hispanic neighbors, African American neighbors, gay neighbors (hand raised), old crotchety neighbors, neighbors with kids, neighbors from countries I’ve never heard of. It’s one of the things I love about this city. But I’m not going to shut up and tell myself I have no right to be upset, when people are killed and beaten and threatened all around me. I can’t speak to what it’s like in other neighborhoods, in other cities — I’m not there. I’m here. And I hope I can stay and look forward to things getting better — for everyone.