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Charm City
The Brighter Side of Baltimore
© 2012 James LaFond
Special events in the Inner Harbor, since April 2015, are now marked by shootings and mob attacks, despite heavy police presence. At the time I wrote the piece below I did not realize that I was documenting a passing era.
I live and work in Baltimore and environs, and hence generally see a much darker side of Baltimore than the typical tourist. Indeed most violent crime takes place not on special event dates [like the flash mob attacks that were the focus of Stoning Baboons], but under normal circumstances. Predators prefer predictable prey and a constant habitat. Of course a large number of soft unprotected targets, such as the Saint Valentine’s Eve tourists who were pack attacked by hundreds of Baltimorean thugs will be selected when available.
From Thursday June 14th thru this evening, Saturday the 16th, I escorted two out-of-town friends around Baltimore City. I have often poked fun at the term Charm City that was coined when Baltimore was developed as a tourist attraction in the early 1980s, even adopting the sarcastic moniker ascribed to it by its violent youth. So, I descended into this touristy abyss with some curiosity. It was an odd experience for me. Normally I see the city between nightfall and sunrise on work days when little security is in evidence. On this weekend the Navy’s Blue Angels and an international flotilla of ‘tall ships’ brought in huge crowds of polite sober families, ushered by many hundreds of security guards and watched over by at least four law enforcement agencies. Even tactical units and Homeland Security was on station.
The contrast was stunning. I did not see a panhandler and the bums laid low. Even the occasional drug dealers were well behaved as they paraded their prized fighting dogs and scantily clad consorts. Criminals, after all, deserve a holiday too. The government presence came close to a national disaster cleanup effort and stifled any violence. With the city swelled to twice its normal population it ran smoother than ever in the commercial district that is normally a prime hunting ground, where I have had homeless men follow me zombie-like on winter nights moaning for the coat off of my back.
This is clear evidence that human predators are creatures of habit who adapt poorly to sudden changes in hunting conditions and policing. A large part of this disruption of violence was the sudden large influx of cohesive mixed-age and mixed-gender groups. There were very few preoccupied individuals rushing to and fro.
Local and federal law-enforcement did a good job enabling us to stand beneath the thundering jet fighters and thank Allah that we weren’t driving a Toyota pickup packed with suspected terrorists across a dusty Afghan road. Ultimately, though, I would have to say the key was those tens of thousands of men and women who were holding doors, and hands, and making sure that the old, young and crippled were all taken care of first. The average person was vigilant and kind. Nothing has more of an impact on violent crime.
When some unusual event causes people to forget to buy into the politics of alienation that dominates their modern work-a-day world they begin to look out for one another and the criminals take a step back and bide their time. The next time we have a blizzard or the ships come into your town, enjoy it; experience what life could be if we were normally politely vigilant. To me this past weekend was a dream-time during which I could fantasize that everything my parents taught me about people being naturally good was true, like sniffing that one special flower that blooms infrequently.
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