During the summer months when it was hot and humid, I'd sleep during the day, and friends and I would sneak out and walk all over the city in the middle of the night, we were only 11-12 years old.
Yes, we hung out on the stairs of our row houses, and on the corners of the streets, and played radios loud, but by and large, violence was confined mostly to bullying. In fact, we had often walked down Pratt street past Martin Luther King Boulevard with no problem from the people living in the projects.
Things changed after the drug war started in the 80s. I started experiencing shootings. Kids got shot at my school. I'd hear gunshots all during the night. I even got caught up in a shootout at one point, which sounded like firecrackers going off if it wasn't for the sounds of bullets ricocheting off of the brick houses (thank god old Baltimore rowhouses had real brick facades)
Many of my childhood friends became drug addicts, crack houses sprung up around my home. One of the friends I knew who I thought would graduate highschool and college, who was smart and into electronics, ended up as the neighborhood drug kingpin. Older neighbors and others who could, fled the city for the suburbs. Homes were boarded out, and soon, it looked like Mad Max. Our house sprouted bars on the windows.
If it hadn't been for my 300 baud vic-modem and Vic-20/C64, I wouldn't have gotten off the streets. I mostly survived by vanishing into the online world, and staying in libraries, and avoiding the streets.
To me, the war against crack cocaine is what leveled Baltimore. Not the drug itself, if the government had treated it as a public health problem, things might have turned out better. But the drug war only served to make drugs the most lucrative, most important part of the local economy, and for the losers in that economy, the dopamine it provided became an escape from despair.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that the criminal justice system is biased against the poor, and exceptionally biased against poor minorities. Since Baltimore demographics are heavily represented by minorities, it's no surprise things happening differently there vs Appalachia.
> I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away.
> “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Honest question - how can the criminal justice system in Baltimore be biased against 'black people's drugs' as a minority when they are numerically in the majority? It is an interesting logistical challenge to discriminate against a 60% voting block in a democracy. Is criminal justice enforced by non-city actors? (I'm not an American)
Oh, they SO can be. They might be numerically in the majority, but the people in power (including some Black people) don't give a SHIT about poor Black people. And act like it.
Not all the people in power are elected (lots of unelected people and institutions have SO much power, like Johns Hopkins, and major developers). But for those who are elected, how they keep getting elected when not only Black people but probably poor Black people are a majority, it's a bit of a mystery to me too.
</lives in Baltimore>
Police are tasked with enforcing these laws which are HEAVILY biased towards the kinds of drugs African Americans deal with.
Possession of 28 grams of crack cocaine yields a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first offense; it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to prompt the same sentence.
crack cocaine did incredible damage to urban black communities, and the laws were a reflection of that. obviously the laws went on to do incredible damage in their own right as well.
Dealing with crack usage as a public health problem would have been far superior.
The harshest of the drug war existed prior to the 1994 crime bill as well.
Locking up 1 out of 4 African American males for drug possession or addict isn't going to fix the problem, it only makes it worse.
As an FYI, Baltimore City and Baltimore County are separate entities (the city is not part of the county).
I cannot speak on the 70s and 80s, but from present observation OP’s assessment of crack vs. cocaine penalties would perhaps be more relevant to a city like NYC than Baltimore. Cocaine (the good stuff rich white people would buy) is not as common because there isn’t enough of a market that could afford it. Overall, heroin is now the most ubiquitous drug with other prescription meds/opioids used as substitutes sometimes. Heroin has really hit the city hard.
In terms of policing/justice, corruption is a pretty big issue. On an everyday level, the police basically won’t do shit unless there is a crime worth their while (so in a hit-and-run or theft for example don’t expect much help).
The neighborhoods in the East and West sides are high in violent crime from gangs and drugs. There are blocks with more rundown vacant houses than occupied ones. Compared to the gentrified pockets, these areas are like favelas.
Baltimore has its redeeming highlights, but it’s nowhere near the industrious city it once was, and is still trying to find a new direction.
Ask yourself who the original majority population in the area were, and where they went. Then ask yourself who the current majority population is, where they came from, and how and why they arrived there. Then ask yourself what population has had the most power there over, say, the last 400 years. You may find that a majority population does not always have a majority of the power.
You can also compare the current state of affairs to the history of other countries. If the majority population is limited by (1) lack of right to vote, (2) lack of access to vote, (3) lack of information to vote, and (4) lack of belief in the vote, that population's effect on local politics can be shrunk down to have very little impact.
And also consider the practical aspects. Even if 99% of your citizenry vote for something, like increased funding for schools - where is the money going to come from if 75% of your population is impoverished? Definitely not from the federal government. You can't just vote yourself out of a terrible local economy.
It's not about the money.
Local jurisdictions, when they do participate in enforcement, are incentivized on convictions and other metrics and alignment to the Federal system is better. So, even if the local police, DA, judge and others in the system are national minorities, but local majorities, they are still working for the national majority policies.
If police and policy-makers were serious about curbing drug use and truly thought their methods worked, they'd go after coke and crack users with the same methods and intensity.
It doesn't; the intensity of the drug war produces the amount of money involved and the street price, as it creates a barrier to entry (reducing competition) and produces supplier costs; it thus increases the minimum sustainable cost and the ability of suppliers to charge above that cost.
But even if we assume causation runs the way you state, the point is that a drug war's intensity and the amount of money wrapped up in it are inextricably linked. If you're buying expensive drugs, then it's highly likely that high-cost operations are involved. In a lawless industry, that means more lawlessness.
However both are supplied by the same violent supply chain that the "war" is supposed to stop.
Crack was regarded as a national emergency in the 80’s. That never happened with powdered cocaine beyond the local drug wars in Miami.
I doubt that’s true.
The powers that be of reactionary politics love to use fear to divert attention and scapegoat racial minorities or foreigners in order to avoid having to address real problems and potentially stop protecting their paymasters.
You just brought back childhood memories of having to eat smooshed candy bars after my mom got done checking them for razor blades and needles. Every. Single. Halloween.
Good example: go out in the street in Russia at night drunk, unshaven and with dirty clothes, and you'd be beaten and robbed by cops. Do same in a good suit and shaven and you'll be alright.
Second, the density gradient of people is quite different and thus far less profitable. Going after the opioid epidemic means going mostly after single individuals in places far less populated with people. The Internet has also dispersed most drug delivery--this is quite a bit different from when the crackdown on crack was running.
Third, the age of the affected is vastly different and creates a far different optics. If you are rounding up "troubled city teens", you're not going to get much pushback from anyone. If you are rounding up "grandma", the press is going to have a field day. This is not new--there is a reason why you know who Rosa Parks is but not Claudette Colvin.
I'm sure all the other reasons listed also play a role, but I'm a bit surprised it escaped everyone (myself included) that opioids line corporate pockets, and crack does not. Given the extent of corporate influence in the US, I'd wager this is the dominant reason.
In fact, it used to be a normal part of discussion that Baltimore, Philadelphia and NYC were basically where you went as a tourist to get something stolen from you, and I personally experienced that on a small scale in two of those cities.
However, I never went really into Baltimore until the mid-2000s when on a number of short term contracts I had to go to near Johns Hopkins and then a couple at Morgan State. To be honest, driving through parts of Baltimore was almost indistinguishable from news clips of war torn cities in the Middle East...just absolute urban devastation...but on slow burn. Hopefully its changed, but it comes to mind as the pinnacle example of urban blight when I think of the term.
My wife, who grew up in South Korea in the late 70s under a military dictator, couldn't even fathom the general level of danger and decay she saw on her few visits into the city. She says she felt better in Pittsburgh.
In the early 2010s, an idealistic friend of mine moved to Baltimore, thinking that an influx of well meaning people with good jobs and money could help turn parts of the city around. They lasted 2 years before the financial burden of repairing material stolen off of their house while they were inside it started to become serious and they moved out to the "safer" city of D.C: gutters, siding, wheels on their cars, a gate, a BBQ, all sorts of things.
One adventurous thief stole all the gutters off their house, two screen doors and helped themselves to a number of car parts off of one of their parked cars between the time they came home from work and went out to dinner.
I know it can be turned around. NYC is generally pretty great these days. Philly ain't half bad. Even D.C. outside of the National Mall is worth visiting and most of the city has turned a corner. Baltimore actually has a lot of great islands of culture to offer, but it's a generation of hard work to get the city turned around.
Another way to think about it is if D.C. and Baltimore metro areas are combined, it could be a unified urban conglomeration that hits around 10 million people, one of the largest in the country, has pretty much the entire Federal Government and many major financial hubs as well as huge biotech, startup and other tech scenes...it has a population larger than the San Francisco Bay Area and could be a much large major economic force.
The drug was was a colssal failure. Having the police roll around the neighborhood and harass junkies helps no one. In fact over policing decimated these communities and vanished a huge part of the population into prisons.
It filled prisons with non-violent offenders which were now sucked into the whirlpool of incarceration. It created a massive prison industrial complex with perverse incentives where the business of locking people up became massivly profitable.
From the start, it was an authoritarian policy designed to make it easier to harass dissidents. [O]
This rings pretty true to me. The past few months I've taken walks around the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, and Federal Hill in the mornings, and it has never felt unsafe. When I've ventured into other parts of the city it's like I've entered a different world. Also, as an aside, you can get a feel for how safe various areas of the city are by checking out the Baltimore Homicides Map:
Anything surrounding Charles St by a few blocks is prosperous and safe, extending into and around Fed Hill, and going east on Pratt St. Frequently-running free buses, light rail, lots of police presence, tourism, a vibrant array of small businesses, and everyone you see is white.
Go outside of those narrow corridors and suddenly it's all liquor stores, boarded up houses, chronically late for-pay buses, and everyone you see is black. If it were the deep south we'd say it was a shocking display of segregation.
https://www.citypaper.com/bcpnews-two-baltimores-the-white-l... https://www.colorlines.com/articles/read-brilliant-breakdown... http://thebaltimorechop.com/2015/04/05/on-the-myth-of-baltim...
There is a razor sharp divide, even if it's not delineated by a train track.
Oh wow, Baltimore (600k inhabitants) has about the same homicide rate per year as the whole of Germany (83M inhabitants)...
If "inequality" is a euphemism for social stratification it should be called as such, or a pithy word found. Not being able to access wealth through hard work is a huge problem.
Even living in the nicer, lower-crime neighborhoods isn't enough for families if the school options are untenable.
Besides the opioid epidemic, this is the next big epidemic: an entire generation of kids who are being doomed by horrible policies passed by politicians who will never be held accountable for them.
I'm not saying it's a bad system, but there's definitely a trade-off there.
Also live in bmore. I think this is only for select top high schools like poly and is based on middle school grades and standardized test.
Agree tho that schools r shit.
Anecdote: A parent from our kid's preschool once told me they had a conversation with the principal of one of our neighborhood elementary schools and upon inquiring about the relatively early start time the principal told him, or at least insinuated, that the start time was designed to dissuade cross-town parents from selecting the school, effectively gaming the lottery system to favor neighborhood families.
It ended up being a methhead painter who grew up in the neighborhood.
Higher numbers of people in a location lead to more crimes occurring in that location, so "crime went up when the rail arrived" is almost a statistical certainty. It doesn't address the fact that crime may increase by 10% while the transit population goes up by 50%.
(2) They weren't making "crime trips" -- they just came to shop at Walmart and crime happened. For example, shoplifting, on impulse. Some fights and such.
The point is, the crime caused by the train line may also partly be of this sort -- impulsive shoplifting, rather than deliberate shoplifting trips.
Do you have any evidence of a crime increase aside from the existence of a store allowing people to shoplift from the store? I'm not asking for your perception here, because it has little to do with what the real crime rate is.
What do you mean evidence? I'm stating as an established fact that the township's crime rate increased. With people from out of town that were shopping at Walmart. The police keep track of this information.
(1) The Wal-Mart caused an increase in total crime. Any place where people congregate will have more crime. The existence of the Wal-Mart may have displaced crime and shoplifting from elsewhere. The existence of the Wal-Mart means that crimes occur there, but that doesn't tell you anything one way or the other.
(2) If the crime was due to the Wal-Mart, it was mostly due to people coming in from out of the area. How many of the people caught were not from the area? How does this proportion differ from when the Wal-Mart wasn't there?
The claims you are making would be very hard to show for a hyper-local area from the rates of crime and the demographics of the perpetrators. It requires actual evidence, including a very large effect to offset the noisy small sample.
> but that doesn't tell you anything one way or the other.
This directly contradicts your previous sentence.
The claim is that crime increased due to out-of-area people coming to a Wal-Mart. People congregate in a Wal-Marts. The proportion of in- vs out- of-area people may differ, but there are a lot of people there. This means crime, especially because it is a store that can be shoplifted from. Much of this crime was displaced from elsewhere, because those same people weren't elsewhere.
In other words, it does not follow this crime was due to out-of-area people, since the crime would have increased regardless.
But here's a case where some people from the COUNTY killed a family member, then came to Baltimore to pin it on a made up homeless person, because they figured everyone would believe it cause of everyone's assumptions about Baltimore.
I'll be downvoted to hell for saying this, but what you point out is an inconvenient truth. Nearly fifty years of blight and desolation, at what point does the other party get a shot? In places like this the Democrats are just a crooked patronage network.. both the source of and solution to their resident's problems...
Look at Maryland in general, they elected possibly the most moderate and centrist republican in the nation, and is generally respected across the spectrum. I wonder what would happen if one of these types had a term in the mayor's office.
I grew up near Baltimore and go through frequently. It's such a shame that what should be such a historic and interesting is so blighted. There are so many beautiful 19th-20th architectural gems that could provide it with so much character and liveliness, not to mention and proud community
And nowhere does this work well. What politician who doesn't fear being thrown out of office by unhappy voters will work hard every day to help them? If the party is guaranteed the vote, then instead they work every day at their own personal advancement, either literally in cash, or in their position in the party hierarchy. (Or at least, the only ones who survive in the system are those who do this -- same result.)
Their policies just plain don't appeal to the cities and pandering to xenophobes has given them a "not an option" status among minorities.They have kept on doubling down on alienating even religious conservative minorities who would otherwise be in line with their other values.
If possessing/using drugs weren't a crime, then people would have less to say "I'm already breaking the law, fuck it"
You'd knock out most organized crime cause you cut their money from them.
If the city was willing to sell at cost (seriously, morphine and oxy isn't expensive to make at all), it would also destroy that economy, and potentially free some back in the hands of the people.
And at the bottom, it also looks to me is poverty and suffering, and people using drugs to buy a short while not thinking about it.
There is a proposal for heroin buyers clubs in British Columbia that has a lot of support: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/heroin-buyer...
Legalization not only cuts down crime (from both drug dealers and drug addicts), it prevents overdose deaths and reduces occurrences of medical emergencies and hospitalizations. The city can also collect taxes on the drugs.
Most notably, drug dealers lost financial incentive to hook new users up on the drug, so no new users anymore.
Your employer is listed in your HN profile. Assuming that you actually work for that company, you should be careful making such comments, even if your intent is completely benign.
When I was a reporter (I'm not anymore) I trawled HN comments for stories. It is not inconceivable that some Gizmodo-esque rag might write "[Redacted] Employee Making Racist Comments on Tech Forum" or whatever.
By the way, that whole tangent about whether it should have been called 'unrest' or 'riots' is a false premise. Some of the people were lashing out against the police and symbols of injustice. And then there was the public housing old folks home that burnt to the ground. Or the old lady attacked by an intruder trying to steal a TV. Or the pharmacies that got raided by gangs to score cheap pills, and the subsequent mini-war after the plunge in black market prices. Or the firefighters who were pummeled by bricks and concrete while trying to put out the blazes. Some people were lashing out against a corrupt system, and some just wanted to burn the city down. When my friends were getting attacked in their homes and their cars destroyed on the street, my sympathy for those particular participants evaporated.
But even considering all that, I strongly feel our society has completely abandoned a vulnerable population, and fed the flames of conflict that arise when people can barely survive.
>This fragmentation results in some stunning inefficiencies that have had a profoundly negative impact on the quality of life for residents in the St. Louis region. For example, not only do St. Louis County and City compete against each other for economic development, so do the 90 different municipalities. This results in massive corporate subsidies as municipalities try to outdo each other in order to attract businesses.
However, Baltimore City actually has LESS autonomy over a variety of things than any other of the several cities I have previously lived in (even those which were in counties) -- the state government in Annapolis controls so many things that I'm used to being controlled much more at municipal level in other cities I've lived in. From liquor licenses, to schools, to the police department, many decisions are made at the state government legislative level. (The Baltimore City council has pretty much NO authority over the police at all -- it's all the state government in Annapolis).
I don't think this is necessarily related to Baltimore City being an independent county-level jurisdiction (although it might be). I think there are a variety of historical factors, stretching back to colonial times (when the Maryland colonial elites were in Annapolis, and never intended Baltimore to be a big city or power center at all, and viewed Baltimore's growth as a threat to their power), to Civil War times (the majority of Maryland, and Baltimore, (white of course) elites sympathized with the confederacy, but the union federal government basically took control of the MD state government -- cause if Maryland went confederacy, DC would be surrounded -- and made sure that confederate-sympathizing Baltimore had limited autonomy), to more recent times (white flight, racism and white supremacy, white people don't believe majority-Black Baltimore can be trusted to run itself).
There is a movement now to combine the city with the county which would make St. Louis the ninth largest city in America. Crime statistics, obviously, would no longer be headline "news" for tabloid journalism.
I guess this should be a general principle. Give subsidies only to entities who need them and take them away once things are better,.
Geez, for how maligned it is, broken window policing seems to work - causally so. In this case, put it in and murder rates go down, take it out and murder rates go up.
It's a cautionary tale in interpreting results in a vacuum.
It's a lot more complicated than "put it in, murders down, take it out, murders up".
Where looking out for political power of your party and self come before those who vote for you.
Or... If they didn't murder Freddy Gray.
It was weird generation to be in. The Baby Boomers were all settling into their careers (mid-career to retirement). Their children all hitting their teens about the same time 80s/90s. The population was growing older, and quickly. As the two main groups, Boomers, and Gen X, were both transitioning to more mature roles; mid-level managers and teens.
The sense of utopia that younger people could feel in the 50s and 60s was gone. People, as a whole, started to worry about retirement. As people get older they get more conservative.
As the Boomers left school, the money was cut. The new buildings in the 1950s had worn out. Their children now entering school now had their music programs cut, and saw the cracks in the walls.
Everything was just grungy.
And therein lies the solution to Baltimore's problems. If you were to somehow provide 30-50,000 low-skill living-wage jobs and maybe an additional 10-15,000 medium-skill white-collar jobs, you could start to "fix" Baltimore. Because the net effect of all those people having money to spend plus the halo effect adding another 10-15,000 jobs (providing new services for all those working people) would be so massive it would change the city. The problem is really just that simple -- total lack of economic opportunity for a large fraction of Baltimore's population who are lacking in skills or education.
Baltimore has "good bones" but intractable economic problems. And the root problem is, how would you provide those jobs? If I had that answer, I'd run for emperor of Baltimore.
Possibly also relevant is this graph: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/media/images/74298000/gif/...
Birth rates for the last 100 years. You can exactly see the 1929, 1979 and 2008 economic crashes; just by observing birth rates.
Sometimes we look for complexity, and overlook the boring demographic stats. We need to take demographics more seriously.
https://bit.ly/2XRl0fu (google maps)
I think it's important to remember that it's actually LEAST safe for the people who have LEAST power. Mostly poor Black people, or people in poor Black neighborhoods. As the article hints at, with people who live in poor Black neighborhoods saying they are amazed that the tourist/professional inner harbor is a "normal" place to walk around, while they're scared to go outside where they live. MOST violence is between people who know each other, often drug trade related. Those with the least social power have the LEAST ability to protect themselves from routine violence.
Which isn't to say it's not also unsafe even for the powerful. It's like the opposite of "trickle down" though. Trickle up. I think sometimes the powerful can forget that however unsafe they feel, most poor people in poor neighborhoods in Baltimore (and most poor neighborhoods are Black neighborhoods) are EVEN LESS SAFE. The powerful can make it an "us and them" thing, they think they need to defend themselves against the poor and Black, who are criminals.
In fact, Baltimore has, for years, been run for the comfort and benefit of people and groups that are already the most powerful. Like probably most cities in the U.S., but Baltimore has it bad. It sometimes seems like the comfort and safety of professional mostly white people is the only thing the city government cares about. (It is a mystery to me why some kind of accountability to the majority population doesn't seem to be necessary for electoral victory by politicians).
That's what got us into this, it's not gonna get us out. You can't abandon most of the city to a post-apocalyptic wasteland and not even think about them, and not have it effect the powerful too. (Of course even if it didn't, it would be morally repellent. But it doesn't work that way, chickens come home to roost). This is why rich people in the third world generally live behind walls with armed guards and don't go out in 'ordinary' neighborhoods -- Baltimore is a warning of how the whole U.S. will be if we keep going in third world directions of distribution of wealth and power between the rich who have it all and the poor who have nothing. Can't we figure out to treat everyone as humans instead?
I don't think technocratic solutions are going to do it, it's not about who has the best "anti-violence program", it's about integrating the disenfranchised into the economy (jobs) and political power structures, so their neighborhoods aren't like places where society has collapsed Mad Max style. There's no way you can live in (OR next to) such a neighborhood and be safe, and there's no way you can recover such a neighborhood with just the application of an occupying police army, the problem is it's ALREADY a war zone, it doesn't need more fighters (who in Baltimore are INCREDIBLY corrupt and untrustworthy too. Seriously Mad Max over here).
2. Police took a hands-off approach after Freddie Gray, causing a predictable increase in crime.