Unified Purpose on Display at Town Hall Safety Meeting

Town Hall Safety Meeting
Panel addresses audience at the Town Hall Safety Meeting held last month.

By Barbie Klik, Safety Committee Chair

On February 1st, about 240 neighborhood residents and MICA students gathered to discuss how we can make Bolton Hill a safer community.

Facilitated by Reverend Grey Maggiano of Memorial Episcopal, the event was attended by Mayor Catherine Pugh, Commissioner Kevin Davis, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Councilman Eric Costello and others. The Town Hall Meeting notes includes a full list of panel guests and other details.

During the two-hour gathering, many ideas were exchanged and everyone walked away with a shared sense of purpose and strategies to make Bolton Hill safer. 

MICA President and Bolton Hill resident Sammy Hoi kicked off the event by describing how the community can engage MICA security. Hoi and MICA Security Director Marlon Byrd explained that MICA security guards, including both armed, off-duty police officers and unarmed officers, generally have four guards on neighborhood streets at all times. Although MICA guards do not have jurisdiction off of MICA property, they will assist any resident who requires assistance.

club cars
Midtown Benefit District’s new “Club Cars” will be on the streets in March.

Bolton Hill is one of the four neighborhoods covered by the Midtown Benefits District (MBD). Executive Director Michelle Wirzberger explained that they spend 21% of their budget on safety, some $250,000 annually, including 17 off-duty BPD officers who patrol the neighborhoods on a rotating basis.

MBD just received a small fleet of Club Cars to supplement its current security patrol capabilities. Used in conjunction with the Segways already in use, these cars will allow MBD officers to increase their patrol capacity by about 25%. Look for them on Bolton Hill’s streets beginning in early March.

State’s Attorney Mosby gave an impassioned description of the effects that community impact statements and community involvement can have during the criminal sentencing process. She explained that because her office has no control over sentences, community involvement at sentencing is the best way to influence the outcome for violent offenders.

State’s Attorney liaison Ashe Smith monitors the arrest and trial proceedings for violent crimes in the neighborhood and alerts the MRIA Safety Committee when sentencing is scheduled so that we can organize residents to show up. Mr. Smith reminded the audience of the importance of having victims testify at a trial, as many cases are thrown out due to a lack of witnesses.

Focusing on the juvenile justice system, Gavin Patashnik, Chief of Juvenile Justice for the State’s Attorney’s Office, outlined various diversion programs for juveniles, and encouraged the neighborhood to get involved with them.

In particular, Mr. Patashnik mentioned the excellent youth programs at Reservoir Hill’s St. Francis Neighborhood Center.  Coincidentally, the MRIA Social Action Task Force highlighted this organization, along with the Kids Safe Zone, during February’s Party with a Purpose. He also mentioned the Reading Partners mentoring program, another local organization which SATF has promoted and supported. See related article here. (See related article on St. Francis Neighborhood Center in this issue.)

Although laws limit the information that can be shared with the community regarding a specific juvenile crime, Mr. Patashnik noted that here too impact statements are effective for guiding sentencing. If the community is concerned about a crime involving a juvenile, Mr. Smith should be notified with the case number, so that he can advocate for our interests. Without such notification, the State’s Attorneys usually becomes aware of a case much later in the process due to the special rules governing the juvenile justice system.

Commissioner Davis, Chief Robinson and Major Jones of Baltimore City Police reiterated that if you see suspicious activity, call 911. Try to provide as much detail as possible, including height, hair characteristics, and clothing, especially descriptions of shirts and shoes, since a coat or sweater can be easily discarded.

Moreover, they reminded us that most crimes are based upon opportunity. Watch your surroundings and walk confidently, while avoiding the distraction of earbuds and displaying your phone as little as possible.

Police Lieutenant Samuel Hood III discussed CitiWatch, encouraging neighbors to send crime video directly to him via email to Samuel.hood@baltimorepolice.org. Include the date and location of incident, your name, address, email, phone number, description of perpetrator. Type and color of shoes are important, as are the clothes under the jacket.

The night finished with a discussion of the Community Conferencing Center by Founding Director Lauren Abramson. The group facilitates many mediation efforts, but a main focus is restorative justice. Similar to Truth and Reconciliation programs, the volunteer program brings together perpetrators, victims and both sets of families/supporters to discuss the crime and appropriate punishment. This approach has been shown to reduce recidivism and, more importantly, help victims of crime get closure. (See related article on Community Conferencing in this issue.)

The event is already producing results as more neighbors met recently to ramp up the work of the Safety Committee. Email Barbie at barbie.klik@blackrock.com if you are interested in working on this committee. And stay tuned for updates on these efforts in the Bulletin.

Safety Recommendations from MICA Security, BPD, and MRIA:

  • Keep porch lights on at night.
  • Install lights near garages, back fences, parking areas, dark spaces.
  • Trim trees and shrubs that can be used to hide criminal activity.
  • Install private cameras.
  • After you report a crime, also send the information to BHEN (linda.rittelmann@gmail.com) to ensure that the neighborhood is on alert. 
  • Walk with a dog or another person or use the Companion App.
  • Carry a whistle or a boat air horn.
  • If you are inside your house and hear a whistle, look outside to determine if someone needs help.  Call 911 immediately. Help if it is safe to do so. 
  • Don’t talk on cell phone or use ear plugs while walking during the day or night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Engage with people on the street. Make eye contact and say hello. 
  • Report suspicious behavior to police using 911 (not 311).
  • Always lock your car doors and remove any and ALL items from the car—even empty fast food bags or trash. Any items left in the car can tempt criminals. 
  • Join COP (Citizens on Patrol)*.
  • Follow court cases; go to court during trial; file an impact statement with the court.
  • Get to know your neighbors at block parties and other neighborhood events. 
  • Get involved. 25% of city residents are living in poverty, and you can take social action. Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters or the MRIA Social Action Task Force

*COP is increasing the number of groups walking the neighborhood, at night and in the mornings. Barry and Barbara Blumberg coordinate an evening walk every Thursday evening starting from 1329 Bolton (410-669-0175 or theblumbergs@earthlink.net).

Jonathan Claiborne leads a walk every Monday evening beginning at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette (jeclaiborne10@gmail.com), and Jack Brown leads a walk on Monday and Wednesday mornings (reach him at NextDoor). 

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