Exclusive: Defiling History
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 21st January 2017

January 18, 2015 2:50 pm ET

Dundalk Historical Society attacked by vandals—five windows broken

Source: Exclusive: Defiling History

In the past, I have written ad nauseam about the “Broken Window Syndrome.” However, before I go into how this issue impacts our district, a classic example of Broken Window Syndrome struck the Dundalk Historical Society, located at 4 Center Place in the heart of Dundalk.

Simply put, the building was attacked by vandals on no less than three different occasions.

The first event occurred on December 29, during which one window was broken but no entry was made. During the next two attacks on December 30 and January 1, damage was reported to the Christmas Garden—one of the historical mainstays during the holidays.

To make matters worse, the broken windows were of the very valuable stained glass variety.

The police responded and are investigating, and there are no damage amounts known yet. The curator of the Christmas Garden, Mr. Mike Andy, said he won’t know the extent of the damage until he breaks down the garden. However, it is safe to say that the building’s alarm system probably saved the interior from more serious damage.

Beyond the broken windows lies a point—one that I believe is the root cause of many of our community’s ills.

In police language, Broken Window Syndrome reveals a cause and effect relationship between Section 8 housing, poverty, and crime. Let’s take a look at a quote from the Atlantic on the issue:

“The connection, seemingly, was that a map of increasing crimes rates in Memphis overlapped almost exactly with the locations of people relocated from demolished public housing projects. Those relocated people were recipients of housing vouchers – Section 8 – through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program, and the fact that crime was following them raised a lot of concern among officials who thought they were solving some of the problems associated with concentrating poverty in housing projects.”

Now, surprisingly, this is the same information I received from former members of the county’s crime stats unit, especially regarding the crime map stats and the correlation to the number of Section 8 housing units in the area.

We already know that we have the highest concentration of Section 8 in the county compared to other jurisdictions. This is not a new problem. In fact, this malaise has had a grip on the Veterans Park area for decades. I can remember back when I was a street cop dealing with the same issues.

It appears that nothing has changed.

The question becomes, “What do we need to do in order to combat this ongoing cancer, which is tearing at the fabric of the Dundalk community?”

There is a solution—a proven concept called “Community Policing.” This is a program that was used successfully in New York City—that area went from being one of most violent cities in the country to a municipality that has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation.

When you consider that New York City is one of the largest entities in the nation, the crime statistics are nothing short of remarkable.

According to the The National Bureau of Economic Research, NYC achieved this dramatic reduction in crime under the leadership of then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who applied the Community Policing program to deal with the effects of Broken Window Syndrome. As the arrest rates rose, crime fell in major categories. For example, as the Community Policing program took effect, the murder rate fell by 73%.

To be honest, other factors played a role as well, such as a decline in the youth population and job growth.

Dundalk, to my knowledge, has experienced neither of these two factors.

But the Community Policing effort, if adopted here, could make a difference. By assigning a task force of officers to aggressively patrol the area, the message would get out that Veterans Park is no longer the place to hang out and partake in criminal activity.

Now, I know the first issue that will arise is a shortage of staff, which will play into this equation and derail the concept. But our leaders need to understand that there is a demand for this type of action.

You see, it’s not just me who is bringing up the topic.

While covering this story, I was told that certain members of the Historical Society had reservations about putting up the Christmas Garden this year because of the potential for problems based on the rapid decline around the Veterans Park area.

In addition to that, a meeting called by the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation last year allowed people within the community to come forward and voice their concerns over a variety a problems besieging the area. The meeting was moderated by an agency that deals with these types of issues, and the program elicited both positive and negative remarks about the heart of Dundalk.

One of the main concerns among the people that spoke was the ongoing problems associated with Veterans Parks, such as the homelessness, drug activity, and general overall criminal activity.

As I said, I have been very vocal about the issues plaguing our area. When I ran for office in 2010 (something I will never do again), I felt that the use of mobile undercover video surveillance could greatly impact the pattern of criminal behavior.

The police solve many crimes by using the existing cameras, both private- and government-owned, to find and identify problem areas, as well as finding suspects involved in various crimes.

In fact, the police are searching the various cameras around the Historical Society building to see if they can identify any suspects in the window smashing attacks.

In the end, it will take strong leadership to deal with the decades-old decline of the area. When it comes right down to it, we need a police presence that states, “If you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime!”

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