Years ago, Rolling Stone magazine ran the iconic ad campaign “Perception vs. Reality.” The magazine suffered a severe identity crisis: Was its audience dope-smoking hippies or affluent professionals?
Baltimore suffers from a perception that it is a dangerous city. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, a good and competent man, recently tried to dispel this perception. Harrison told the press that Baltimore is a safe city and that the perception of Baltimore as dangerous is wrong. Ignore for a moment that in 2019 Baltimore was named the most dangerous city in America by USA Today, and in 2017 the third most dangerous city by the FBI.
The reality is that people are being shot and killed nearly every day in Baltimore. More are being mugged and assaulted in broad daylight. The shooters and their victims may know each other, as the commissioner asserts, but, for the victims, their families and friends, that makes no difference. That hardly is a justification.
People who don’t know each other are being violently attacked or robbed within view of the downtown police headquarters and elsewhere. Last week, media reported no fewer than four street muggings in quiet residential areas; ironically, two of the victims of one armed robbery were the deputy police commissioner and his wife, who were walking on Pratt Street near Patterson Park at 9 p.m. On Thursday, a 22-year-old woman was robbed in the 2200 block of Eastern Avenue at 6 a.m. by six people as she loaded her car for work.
Saying Baltimore is safe does not make it so. For the chief safety officer of this city to publicly assert that Baltimore is safe is a dangerous disservice to its citizens and visitors. And although such bold statements will not likely sway those who hear them, they damage the commissioner’s credibility. And Commissioner Harrison and other city officials need all the credibility they can bring to the table. Harrison’s job is to reorganize the BPD, to fight crime and to keep our city’s residents and visitors safe. He’s not a public relations professional whose job is to manage the message in order to enhance the city’s image.
The dangers present in our city are more than perception; they are real and need to be addressed quickly. Not by public relations-esque statements we might expect to hear from an elected official, but by making the streets safe. Saying the perception is wrong does not change reality.
Editorial Advisory Board members James K. Archibald, Nancy Forster, Susan Francis, Michael Hayes and Ericka King did not take part in this editorial.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
Arthur F. Fergenson
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.