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Perceptions propagate problems

Apparently the Moyer Administration down in Annapolis is starting to learn that if people perceive crime to be a problem, then it is:

With the sudden force of a summer storm off the Chesapeake Bay, much of Annapolis seems to be in an uproar over crime.

Businesses are offering reward money to catch violent robbers. Residents are meeting to discuss their safety. The mayor has issued four policy statements on law enforcement the past month, proposing longer police shifts, security cameras at public-housing complexes and officers on horseback and Segways.

Yet violent crime in Annapolis actually dropped 8 percent during the first six months of 2007 as compared with the same period last year. The city has had as many homicides this year — four — as bigger cities report in a week. And all those cases were quickly solved.

Then why the sudden concern? Combine a couple of high-profile crimes in prime locations of the city, alarm being sounded by City Council members while the mayor was away on an extended vacation, and the fact that one victim was walking home from the influential Annapolis Yacht Club.

“That’s almost the perfect storm,” said Ross H. Arnett III, a yacht club member who is also a Democratic alderman, representing Ward 8. “It doesn’t happen that often.”

The crimes that led to the heightened concern were near some of the city’s best-known restaurants and businesses. On July 24, a restaurant worker was severely beaten and robbed by a group of people while walking home in Eastport, a neighborhood of upscale businesses and homes. On July 31, a young female employee of the yacht club was assaulted by a robber in Eastport while returning home.

Neither case has been solved. Although overall crime is down, incidents of aggravated assault and motor-vehicle theft are up for the first six months of the year.

The July 31 attack, in particular, “got the yacht club energized,” said Arnett, whose district includes Eastport. “The yacht club has a lot of powerful members.”

Other than the obvious slant against the rich, the story goes on to point out that crime as a whole is down in the city of Annapolis. It’s only that the perception is that crime is in fact rising, particularly in affluent highly trafficked areas. There is absolutely no way to publicly deny that a problem is happening if so many people perceive that there is a problem. And the city has been absolutely incapable of doing anything that makes it seem like anything other than a crimewave is sweeping the city.

Do I ever feel imperiled in Annapolis? Absolutely not. Then again, I stay on heavily trafficked areas and don’t actually live there, so my experiences may be somewhat different. The city’s problem is that it isn’t the tourists who have a problem with seeing the crime; it’s the residents, and that creates big big problems for elected officials and city leaders.

Of course, having an absentee Mayor off in Europe for two months probably didn’t help the cause, either….

(Crossposted)






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