State Delegate Pat McDonough in a June 18, 2012 press release declared downtown Baltimore a no travel zone. McDonough, a Republican, representing parts of Baltimore County accused Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Police Department of covering up criminal activity. The accusations come in the aftermath of the St. Patrick’s Day beating of a tourist and flash mob attack on a downtown 7-11 store. A beating that went viral on YouTube ♦.
Sailabration highlights Baltimore’s maritime heritage. (Source:Greg Cundiff)
Violence Captures Media Imagination
Incidents of violence reported in the media capture the imagination but fail to reflect the day-to-day experience of visitors and residents over time. Baltimore City Council member William Cole presents a more nuanced view of crime in the city,
“If you look at our track record overall, you’ll see that this City has had a number or events without any violence whatsoever. We host 10 or more football games, an international soccer match, one major college football game, and 81 baseball games yearly without any issues. We hosted the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix with more than 165,000 guests without so much as an arrest. We hosted Sailabration 2012 with hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the region and country and had no major incidents. We’ve had a few isolated and horrific incidents in the last few years, but they are grossly outnumbered by the safe, family friendly events we host each and every year. I’ve lived near the Harbor for more than 25 years now and am raising 3 children not even three blocks from it — I feel it’s as safe (or safer) as any suburban mall in this state.”
The following slide show illustrates Councilman Cole’s point about feeling the harbor is as safe as a suburban mall. During Sailabration 2012 the Inner Harbor had a crowded but relaxed atmosphere.
Baltimore’s Sailabration 2012 from Greg Cundiff on Vimeo.
Cole notes, however, that perceptions matter,
“Obviously, those random incidents were highlighted in the news and create this belief that there’s a crime problem. Some of it is perception, but perception becomes reality when you are best known for crime dramas like the Wire, Homicide, and the Corner. BPD has shifted deployments appropriately both on a nightly basis and for major events to create a more visible police presence if for no other reason than to signal that we won’t tolerate foolish behavior.”
Data Tells Better Story
Police data available on Open Baltimore confirms that the city’s homicide rate is indeed on the decline. Crime reports from both Sailabration and Independence Day indicate that contrary to media impressions the Downtown and Inner Harbor neighborhoods are not free-for-all zones.
Five year city-wide homicide rates compared to Downtown and Inner Harbor rates. (Data Source: Baltimore City Police Dept.)
Sailabration Downtown and Inner Harbor Crime (Data Source: Baltimore City Police Dept.)
July 4 Celebration Downtown and Inner Harbor Crime (Data Source: Baltimore City Police Dept.)
Management of perceptions is critical in the context of tourism marketing. Living Classrooms Foundation, which manages the National Historic Seaport of Baltimore, reports that its operations result in $104 million in economic output and 1760 jobs annually for Baltimore City. An Americans for the Arts report shows that arts and cultural organizations supported 9505 full time equivalent jobs and over $260 million in household income for city residents in fiscal year 2010. Baltimore’s annual arts festival, ArtScape is expected to have $25 million impact on Baltimore City this year.
Baltimore Payroll by Sector (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Councilman Cole explains the value of heritage tourism,
“The war of 1812 bicentennial and the three years worth of events surrounding that celebration give us another opportunity to market Baltimore as a destination for history buffs. We played a critical role in this country’s history and have many wonderful museums and tourist attractions to see. We are easily accessible for day-trippers by car and train and our airport is easy and accessible for conventions and longer-stay visitors. We’ve got much to celebrate so Visit Baltimore is looking for any and all opportunities to market the City both regionally and nationally.”
A conversation with members of the Veteran Artist Program explores how arts and culture cement a community and provide a value to the visitor.
Veteran Artist Program at Sailabration from Greg Cundiff on Vimeo.
We invite you to share you experience with public safety in the Downtown and Inner Harbor areas of Baltimore City.
♦ Video no longer available on YouTube.