By J. K. Schmid, Baltimore AFRO Staff
It’s a dark and lonely approach to Linden Park Apartments in the Bolton Hill community of West Baltimore. The street lights lining McMechen Street are out, and the parking lot is only briefly lit by a solitary strobe.
“Where are the police?” Leo W. Burroughs, Jr. asked in his August 9 official complaint to interim commissioner Gary Tuggle. Burroughs is the president of the Linden Park Tenants Association and a veteran community and civil rights leader. The letter, CCed to Judge James K. Bredar, the judge approving the ongoing 2017 consent decree between the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Lt. Col. Kevin Jones (right) and Chief Michelle Wirzberger, Consent Decree Implementation (to Jones’ right) answer questions during a community forum in Bolton Hill. Leo Burroughs, Jr., President of the Linden Park Tenants Association and an unidentified resident are also seated at the table. (Photo: J.K. Schmid)
At issue in August was a “fiasco” in which ranking representatives of BPD failed to appear at a forum to discuss public safety with residents of Linden.
“We the officers of the Tenant Association demand accountability,” the letter read in its conclusion.
In answer to the demand, Lt. Col. Kevin Jones, Area 1 commander, and Maj. Darryl Gaines, Central District, attended a Tuesday evening (Nov. 14) Linden Tenants Association meeting for “suggestions or questions or constructive criticism,” Burroughs said.
Chief Michelle Wirzberger, Consent Decree Implementation was also in attendance.
Wirzberger’s visit comes after a September 17 conversation where Burroughs raised the ongoing issues of unlit lights in a neighboring Save-A-Lot parking lot and the unsafe approach to the shopping center from Linden. While physical traffic calming measures, signage, lights and speed humps/bumps are a Department of Transportation matter, residents aired the same concerns during the Tuesday meeting of how BPD will enforce traffic laws with the streets as they are now.
Residents believe any kind of safe passage between Linden and the shopping center requires street lighting well before 5 p.m. as winter approaches.
“That is a continuing problem, and we have not found a solution,” Burroughs said. “We shared that with our city councilman, Eric Costello, and he always tells us he’s looking into it. He’s City Council District number 11.”
The conversation moved to the issue of violent crime, literally on residents doorsteps.
“Since I’ve been here, there’s been four cars broken into and certain things taken out of them,” a resident said. “Nobody knows who it is, no witnesses have come forward, nobody can remember nothing. So my thing is, if one one of us is going to the store, we’re out there at night, and we get attacked, what’s gonna happen about that?” The resident also raised the issue that there was no video evidence on Linden security cameras.
“The fact of the matter is, in this particular area, crime is down,” Jones said. “So officers have been doing a better job of being proactive around here. I can certainly go out there, and assess that particular situation that you’re talking about… You’re talking about the apartment complex’s personal security cameras and that’s really a question you need to have for the management about where to place the cameras for optimal coverage.”
Jones went on to advise that residents leave their vehicles “as empty as it was when you purchased it.”
“That’s not telling me about if someone attacked me out there,” the resident replied.
Jones stuck to the numbers.
“We do have roving patrols out there, and some kind of dedicated cars to this area, but crime is down,” Jones aid. “Unfortunately, we would love to have a society where there is zero incidents, but there are incident reports.”
“You have to do things to target harden yourself,” Jones said at a time where the BPD is simultaneously understaffed (by approximately 400 officers) and over budget ($21 million in overtime at last count). “We ask any individual, especially in senior communities, it is best that you use the buddy system, it is best to recommend a personal alarm system… there’s things that you can do yourself.”
“So that’s what we look for,” Jones said. “Target hardening not only buildings, but yourself.”