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by Peter Moskos

May 28, 2008

No Parking = No Drugs?

In a comment, Timothy turned me on to an article by Liz Kay in the Sun, "No parking, Less Drugs." Leaving aside the grammatical question (it should be "fewer drugs," right?), what about the concept? They banned parking on part of the business strip of Pennsylvania Avenue to get rid of drug dealers. Apparently, it has gotten a little better. It's also hurt business.

[Sun photo by Andrew F. Chung]

My first thought is that it's a dumb idea. As Mr. Sussman, pawnshop owner and president of the Merchants' Association, is quoted as saying, "Sometimes there's a worry that you can cure the disease and kill the patient."

And I also don't like a vision that prefers empty streets to streets crowded with non-criminals. That's very anti Jane Jacobs.

That being said, there are many things in favor of this idea.

1) It is an idea. Maybe it'll work. Maybe not. But I'm all for trying it.

2) The problem of public drug markets is big. Desperate times often do require desperate actions.

3) Apparently the business owners support it. As long as the businesses support it, I will, too. In a business strip, the business owners should have a big say. Besides, probably the main people inconvenienced by this are the business owners themselves who park in front of their store and feed the meter all day. I wonder how many of these spaces were open to the public, anyway.

4) The greater impact seems to result from increased police presence rather than the removal of parking space.

Is it a long-term solution? Of course not. But I guess it's worth a try. There are lots of places you can deal drugs in Baltimore. It would be nice if Pennsylvania Avenue weren't one of them.

From the article:
Deidre Danois said she and a friend had to park across the street recently when they stopped on Pennsylvania Avenue to grab some breakfast.

"I bet you police don't go up to Roland Park and tell them they can't park on their street," Danois said as she shopped at Sweet Sixteen.

That's right, hon. Because they're not dealing drugs in front of stores in Roland Park. She reminds me of one time when I was in the 7-11 at 2300 Orleans St (which is actually the Southeast but we would go there because it was next to 24 post and hell, we didn't have a 7-11 in the Eastern). I liked this 7-11 because of Lorraine, one of the employees. Sometimes we would swap our respective soul foods. She'd bring me homemade collards and I'd give her just baked spanakopita. Lorraine quit when she won the lottery and got engaged to a nice Indian man. That's two separate events. I didn't want her to quit. But hell, could you blame her? Who works midnights in that 7-11 by choice?

Anyway, this 7-11 could get pretty wild. One night they were out of chili and cheese and posted a sign by the hot dogs saying so. There were a bunch of yo-boys acting up, ordered hot dogs, and hadn’t seen the sign. They were upset that they couldn’t top off their “dugs.” Between curses, one guy shouts, “I bet the white man’s 7-11 has chili!”

Sure thing, dog, and an open bar, too.

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