A reputation for becoming crime-ridden — whether justified or not — can be a death knell for a neighborhood.

At a community meeting recently, city officials heard from some residents of the south end of downtown Frederick who said that is exactly what is happening. They believe that street crime is increasing, and they want the city to stop it.

The city’s crime reports generally do not support the perception that those folks have, but as in so many things, a growing perception can spawn reality. And we don’t want that to happen in our city.

That is why it is heartening to see some good corporate groups and city officials working to address the perception problem in a wide-ranging initiative called the Downtown Safety and Services Initiative.

The group’s leaders are Peter Couchman, director of community benefit projects for the Ausherman Family Foundation, and Gayon Sampson, executive assistant to Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor.

They have created five committees to focus on various issues. Earlier this month, the group did a presentation to the community, to discuss what they have learned so far. More than 100 people turned out, and many were not happy.

At the center of residents’ concerns were homelessness and crime, and many directed their frustration at Mike Spurrier, executive director of the Frederick Community Action Agency. Spurrier, who has run the agency for more than 30 years, was fired by the mayor less than two weeks after the meeting and given 28 days to wrap things up.

The FCAA’s headquarters is at 100 S. Market St., in the heart of the area giving rise to the complaints about crime. In an email to his supporters, Spurrier summarized the feeling of people at the meeting:

“1) Residents in the south end are concerned (perhaps fed up) with quality of life crimes such as drinking in public, open drug use, public urination, loitering, littering and even trespassing; and 2) many people want to relocate the FCAA out of downtown.”

Dave Cook, one of those who spoke, said the mayor’s call was the right one. He added that the crimes committed downtown are reaching a fever pitch. He said his friends who live in Boston tell him they always feel safe in their city, but “Right now, I can’t say that about Frederick.”

Lt. Paul Beliveau, who commands the Frederick Police Department’s Special Operations Division, told The News-Post that the residents’ complaints are in some measure based on a misperception.

“You may live downtown or have a business downtown and never experience any crime and your perception is great, but then you could have, one street over, somebody who could have a persistent issue that we’re trying to solve and it could be challenging, and they may think that crime is absolutely horrible. Neither one is completely accurate.”

Serious crime, including homicide, manslaughter, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft, has decreased by 12 percent from January through August 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to the department’s statistics.

But most of what the public is complaining about does not constitute that serious crime. They are talking about druggies and drunks.

Crime data provided to The News-Post show that police have made 361 arrests this year around Carroll Creek and All Saints Street, as of July 30. In all of 2018, 272 arrests were made. That is a huge jump, which may indicate more crime or it may indicate stricter enforcement by police.

The department has created a special unit, the Directed Patrol Team, to focus on crime and quality-of-life issues downtown, Beliveau said.

Reflecting on the issues after the meeting, Sampson showed he is aware of what the O’Connor administration is facing: strong pressure to correct the problems of safety downtown, both the reality and the perception.

“We want to reassure the community that we’re working on things,” Sampson said. “So it’s not productive to meet just to meet. We want to give them actual updates that are meaningful.”

He is absolutely correct. Along with other such issues facing the city, including transportation problems and blight both downtown and in other neighborhoods, the administration will be judged on the results it achieves, not on the awareness it shows.

(14) comments

gxkinsey

I am sorry, but quoting David Cook is very ill-advised. The FNP reported that he stabbed a patron at a bar on Market Street. Why rely on him now?

KR999

"Serious crime, including homicide, manslaughter, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft, has decreased by 12 percent from January through August 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to the department’s statistics." I noticed shootings weren't included in that list. And, if they were down in that time frame, it sure isn't reflected in all the articles about them I've read this year.

Lev928

"Serious crime, including homicide, manslaughter, rape, assault ..."

Shootings ARE included in the category crimes of homicide, manslaughter and assault. However, you are correct that regardless of how it's "defined", assaults (shootings) are increasing in Frederick City and along its immediate Frederick County borders overall. There's no denying it, even though they try to skew the numbers ...

KR999

While I agree in part, lev, I mentioned shootings weren't included because homicides and manslaughters can be committed with any type of weapon; not just firearms but also knives, blunt force objects, motor vehicles, even one's own bare hands.

StrengthofLiberty

"urban expression", "collective identity", "remember why we live here and mentally and logistically prepare for what might be coming." And one last one, "not-so-little town, in which they specifically focus on real estate opportunities in the city and our awesome quality of life" - These are the highlights from an op-ed piece published here - "Why We Live Here".

Dual opinion pieces about downtown, proving vividly two things can be true at the same time. Alas, Frederick city residents have to buck up - drugs and crime are just another form of economics. They are natural forms of urban expression that bring pleasure, release from the frustrations of the horror of our highways. Obviously crime does co-exist with law abiding, hard working Americans, including all those from what ever socialists dream country they flee. In the most progressive terms - Why not legalise drugs. Legalise prostitution. The data bears truth in the earning potential these ever present profit streams hold, and how willingly money is spent to satisfy our most primordial urges, and just how interracially okay with one another all sorts of people in fact are. Odd isn't how, in such a diverse environment a hotel conference center downtown makes more sense than - in the same location - large scale affordable housing. The Common Market could be on the ground floor, along with a community garden, with 24 hour open bathrooms along the linear park. Free healthcare clinic funded by public treasuries [local, state and federal]. The police force can be expanded - and each community officer be fully multi-lingual, while equipped with all of todays up to the minute subscription surveillance, legal and civil rights training and acceptable behaviour monitoring security devices. No guns though. Facial recognition can be placed in the downtown schools to enhance a peace of mind. But we can not forget - ever - management of sewage.

All of this - For All of Us. For our quality of life. For the children. Remember there are no criminals - just people who are misunderstood, and need help avoiding the consequences of their actions.

Collective identity. Urban expression. Yum. Yum.

bosco

"Druggies and drunks".....I'm sure the politicians in SF have some more PC acronyms - maybe Substance Challenged Residents?

Hillary Trump

I'm glad it's not as bad as San Francisco.

Lemmy

Or Baltimore . . . or any other liberal-run city.

DickD

You are absolutely right, Lemmy. And that's why we need to take action on that notorious West Virginia urban areas, the area of the Donald Trump cult.

KR999

Ever the fool, huh Dick? In 2018, the population of Baltimore was approximately 602,500 and there were 309 homicides (down from 342 in 2017.) Last year the population of West Virginia was approximately 1,805,832 and there were 67 murders. So just how exactly can you find a comparison between the two? Because A) you hate Trump and always have to find some way to include a derogatory comment about him in everything you post here and B) you aren't capable of acknowledging that the high rate of crime in the inner cities is a result of their liberal officials inability to curtail that crime.

DickD

KR, you totally ignoring the fact that West Virginia has one of the worse opioid crisis in the U.S. You point to murders and ignore all else because you can't stand the truth. You are the typical deplorable Republican.

Lev928

DickD ... during my nearly three decades working in the field, I've rarely seen assaults/homicides attributed to opioids. It's mainly and directly related to marijuana and hardcore drugs like cocaine, meth, etc. And yes ... marijuana is one of the biggest factors related to homicides to this day. Let's just legalize it, right? lol. As for PRESIDENT Trump, regardless of how you OR I feel about him, he's the President of the United States ... like it or not. If the corrupt dems and libs would show some honest respect, they might get some in return.

KR999

Dick, believe it or not, I can stand the truth. The gist of my comment to you was you're trying to compare W.V. to inner cities and I supplied some info involving one type of crime, murders. There's no doubt that W.V. has a drug problem, name one state, name one city, that doesn't, blue or red. You're the typical head-in-the- sand liberal Democrat.

DickD

KR,drug use is drug use no matter where it happens. Trump promised jobs to WV and has not delivered. Just maybe they take drugs to forget their problems.

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