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by Peter Moskos

December 20, 2007

Shooting in White and Black

The Sun has an excellent interactive graphic that can display all the year's homicide victims. You can select for different variables, so it's fun to play with (if you're a nerdy academic).

One of the depressing things about homicide is the racial breakdown. Breaking violent crime down by race doesn't get much press, probably because it treads on incredibly un-politically correct territory. But I'm not afraid of fact. According to today's paper, the city's homicide count rose to 277 (surpassing the 2006 total).

If you go to the interactive graphic, select for all of 2007 and white. You get 13 victims. Three of those by shooting. Keep shooting selected and then select for black victims. It's very, very depressing. It's mostly clustered in the Eastern, Western, and part of the Northwest.

Keep black and shooting and add "article, yes." Look at those red dots disappear. Young black men shot and killed that you never even heard about. And that's if you read the daily paper. Granted, most of the white victims didn't make the paper either. But for whites in Baltimore, we're talking maybe a dozen or so, not hundreds of lives a year!

Most of the deaths are caused by the issues related to the illegal drug market. If we regulated drug selling (and who is for unregulated drug selling?), lives would be saved.

When people ask me why things aren’t getting better, one of my stock answers is this: liberals refuse to talk about culture and conservatives are too greedy and don't give a damn. Of course, that's just my simplistic way to piss everybody off. So let me explain:

Liberals refuse to think of anything other than “root causes.” This usually comes down to money and racism. If anything is going to get better, it will cost money. But money isn’t everything. Rich drug dealers (though most are poor) have money. And they’re part of the problem. And most poor people struggle buy without ever killing anybody.

And racism matters. But if we wait till racism is over before moving forward, we’re going to be stuck a very long time.

And let’s talk culture. Part of ghetto culture is screwed-up. There are a lot of bad parents out there. I’m not going to divide parents into either “good” or “bad,” but some parents simply do a crappy job of raising (or not raising) their kids. I'm not blaming the victim. I think there are good reasons people are screwed up. But screwed up they are.

Just once I’d like to hear a liberal call anybody a “bad” parent. I’m not saying insulting parents is the answer, but sometimes a little truth is refreshing and helps clear the air (and may get conservatives to open their pocketbooks).

Conservatives, at least the good ones, do give a damn. But too often they are greedy or ideologically blinded. They don’t want to spend money. We need to change attitudes and shift priorities. But this can’t be done without money. We could make things better. If we had the will, we would find the money.

Say want you want about the risks of legalized and regulated drug selling, but if we could save lives (and raise money), wouldn't it be worth it? If you're still for drug prohibition after all these failed years, ask yourself what is more important than saving the lives of poor young black men. If you have an answer, you need to look deep inside yourself. You may not like what you see.

Hope for the Eastern's most beautiful building

The Sun reports that the American Brewery is getting money for development. This building is gorgeous, in the Eastern District, and in complete disrepair. $35 million to convert the five-story former brewery into office space for a nonprofit social service. It's good their going for office space rather than residential. The Eastern District is littered with failed residential conversions (the old school just off North Ave being the worst failure).

One of the nice things about being a cop is you can go explore any urban wreck you want. The interior is falling apart, there are feral fighting dogs living in part of it. And the upper reaches are caked in pigeon shit. It needs a lot of work. But these building also need love. They need to be saved because they will never be built again. Here's a good 3rd-party account of exploring the building. Mind you, it was 10 years more decrepit when I explored.

The brewery wasn't in my sector, but I loved it every time I passed it on the way back to the district. The most veteran cop I worked with remembered when it was still making beer and the friendly brewmeister serving on duty cops at his house across the street. Those were the days...

The Baltimore Sun did a great series on the neighborhood around the brewery.

Not the sharpest tack in the box

Cop brags about seized drug theft
The New York Daily News reports that two narcotic detectives here caught after bragging on their own wire about stealing bags of seized cocaine.

Corruption always involves drugs. But rarely in such idiotic fashion.

December 16, 2007

The Eastern District today

A student of mine went down to Baltimore and took some pictures of the Eastern. I don't get there much anymore, even when I go to Baltimore. I don’t know anybody who lives there.

In most ways, the Eastern looks like it hasn't changed at all. In one big way, it's changing a lot: the expansion of Johns Hopkins Hospital (or "Hotkins," as some say in the 'hood). It's a bit sad when even the community doesn't really object to the destruction of their area.

Of course these pictures don’t show the homes well kept up. There are working people and good homes in the Eastern. These pictures don’t do them justice. Neither does my book. But when an outsider goes into the Eastern, it’s hard not to be shocked by the abandonment of virtually everything.

Between 1990 and 2000, the District lost 30% of it’s population. And that’s just in these 10 years. I’d guess the District has probably lost three-fourth of its population since its peak, probably in the 1950s. When you take three quarters of the people out of an area, there’s lots of empty space left. Think of that vacant block Hampsterdam from Season 3 of the Wire. That was just west of Broadway, near the Amtrak tracks.

The blocks just west of Broadway, the ones that haven’t been demolished, are interesting and a little scary. You get streets off of alleys. Even cops have a tough time finding Iron Alley (though many know it as the place a cop was shot and killed in 1985). And even I have to use to Google Earth to remember Hakesley Place and Lansing Ave.

When most people who can afford to leave, leave, there’s a lot of concentrated poverty and crime left.

Maybe the expansion of Hopkins will do so good. Maybe not. It's not like they've been great neighbors in the past. And it’s not like I’ve got the answer, short of regulating drug selling and taking the profit out of the hands of criminals (or, even better, turning criminals into legal tax-paying businessmen).

I like the idea somebody had to paint the boards on boarded-up buildings pretty colors. That way the neighborhood will look nice. This in just south of the market, if I remember correctly.
These little bricked streets, if you squint enough, can actually look beautiful. I once saw a picture or postcard of this street from 1945. There was a big banner hanging over the street saying, “welcome home soldiers!” All the stoops where scrubbed clean with pumice stone, and every home was occupied. I believe that block had three occupied buildings when I worked there. I remember one burnt down when I was there. Now it’s probably completely unoccupied.

This used to be the worst drug area in the district, conveniently locked next to Hopkins E.R. bad drug area. This is very strange. It’s all gone now. And they haven’t redrawn the post-boundaries, so 323 post has suddenly become a great post to police. I’m sure the dealers and junkies movie elsewhere. But I wonder what happened to the excellent (black owned and operated) produce stand on Washington St. and Mr. George and his Laundromat and Wolfe and Eager?

They didn’t have these when I was a cop. I’m not sure if they do any good. I think printing the slogan “believe” on them may be going a little far. A friend of mine is the guy who sits on the police end of these cameras on the midnight shift, watching the cameras. Mind-numbing work, but he’s got no choice. He was forced to retire on disability after being shot and almost killed in the line of duty. He needs the money since he can’t live and support his family on his pension.
I’m the type of guy who would have bought some ribs from this operation. Other cops thought that was a little funny.
I think this is Lafayette or Lanvale, judging from the trees. These blocks were some of the prettiest in Sector Two.
This is taken from Bond St, looking down the 1700 block of Ellsworth. I used to spend many mornings here, just behind where this was taken. It was the best view of the east. I could watch the sun rise and listen to Amtrak trains disappear in the tunnel toward Penn Station.

Cops 1 - Robber 0

For all the press police-involved shootings get in New York City, there are a lot more shootings in Baltimore if you take the difference in population into account (almost an equal number if you don't). Baltimore shootings don't get much press because the city isn't a media center and Al Sharpton doesn't live there.

Instead, the local chapter of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement (who?) is protesting the latest shooting. I think they should pick their battles a little better.

A man robbed a Burger King (not too far from where I lived) and, while making his getaway, pulled a loaded handgun out at police officers. He got killed. Damn right police shot. But perhaps only in Baltimore do family members of the dead robber wonder why more police didn’t shoot.

The full story is here.

Family demands answers in police shooting

By Stephen Kiehl

Baltimore Sun reporter
December 15, 2007

The family of a man killed by police last week asked yesterday why it still hasn't received a written report on the shooting and said it is in the "beginning stages" of filing a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Relatives of Coby Brown, 23, said they have not received any response from police despite multiple requests for a full accounting of the Dec. 4 shooting in Upper Fells Point. They also question the use of such lethal force.
"We are left wondering what happened, how it happened and if it needed to happen," said Thomas K. Smith, Brown's stepfather, during a small rally at the shooting scene. "We want the truth."
Brown was shot by police after he robbed a Burger King in the 2000 block of Eastern Ave. in Fells Point, police said. Officers on foot patrol gave chase. Another officer pursued in a vehicle. Brown shot at the officers and then stopped in front of a house on Gough Street, police said.
When Brown pointed his gun at Officer Modesto A. Olivio Jr., police said, Olivio shot Brown in the stomach. Brown died the next day at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"This suspect made a choice when he pointed a loaded handgun at a police officer, and when he makes that choice, the officer is left with no choice," said police spokesman Sterling Clifford.

December 12, 2007

Advance Praise for Cop in the Hood

"Peter Moskos, a sociologist by training, somewhat inadvertently became a police officer. Cop in the Hood is the fortuitous and fascinating result. It gives the reader the real dope from someone with the training and ability to put the street into the larger context. Highly recommended."
--Alex Tabarrok, George Mason University, cofounder of marginalrevolution.com.

"Cop in the Hood is an extremely valuable study centered on patrolling a drug-infested Baltimore police district. Readers interested in drug policy, criminology, or policing cannot help but to learn a lot from this book. I know that I did, and I am grateful to the author. Many of his insights are eye-opening. His voice is unique and essential in debates concerning drug-policy reforms."
--Jim Leitzel, University of Chicago