Crime Watch

July 31, 2013
BY Maayan Jaffe
Surge of rock throwing in Baltimore City following Zimmerman verdict raises questions

080213_crime_watchOver the last month there have been several incidents of rocks being thrown through car windows in Northwest Baltimore. One of these incidents turned into a media scene, when on July 17 a local Jewish resident was in his car, making a left from Gist Avenue onto Labyrinth Road, and a rock was thrown through the window. It smashed the glass and injured the driver, according to a statement by Shomrim, the neighborhood watch group.

That incident was just one of several in a short period, according to a release. As of July 19, there had been at least four rocks (usually pieces of concrete) thrown through car windows in three weeks in Northwest Baltimore. The first three were parked cars with no owners present.

At the same time, a delivery truck belonging to a Jewish store owner was painted with the phrase, “F–k the Jews.” The owner asked that his name or that of his store not be released to the media.

Cause for alarm?

“It’s nothing beyond the norm,” said Dr. Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Said Mitch Posner, head of Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.: “If not for Shomrim putting out its emails, we would not have known about it.”

But Nathan Willner, general counsel for Shomrim, said the rock incidents are a new type of crime for the area.

“We have not had incidents like that in the past,” he said.

But he also said this is not cause for alarm. He said in the summer, when the weather is hot and kids are bored, there is often an upsurge in crime. The rock throwing, he noted, is something new that is being seen in several neighborhoods in Baltimore City and is not unique to the Northwest corridor. He also said that Northwest Baltimore “is the safest sector of Baltimore City. We generally have a pretty quiet and safe neighborhood.”

Timing Is Everything
The rumors swelling about an upsurge in crime are likely because of timing. The crimes coincide with the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, was found not guilty for defending himself against Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American. The court’s decision led to several protests and some upset in various communities across the country; many claimed Zimmerman should have gotten punished for shooting Martin and that he had racially profiled the youth, as Martin walked through an upscale neighborhood in Sanford, Fla. In Baltimore, which has a large African American community, there was some worry that a heated situation could erupt.

“I was ready in post-Zimmerman America for there to be literal race riots in Baltimore City,” said Thomas Arnold, who works as a guard for the Department of Homeland Security. “I am fairly certain the Baltimore City Police Department was ready for that, too.”

Posner said that these worries were not a topic of his conversations, and he works with five area neighborhood associations through CHAI. He said the community has held it together, and he thinks that is largely because of the investment the people have made in keeping the neighborhood safe and cohesive.

“CHAI has worked very hard, and I hope played an important role in stabilizing the community for everyone who lives here, and encouraging and building relationships between all the people of Northwest Baltimore,” said Posner. “One of the beauties of that is when there is an incident — or in this case a verdict with Zimmerman — we had an immediately available group of people to discuss it with. I think the story is that there really isn’t a story, at least in Northwest
Baltimore.”

Joann Levy, director of neighborhood development for CHAI, has been working with CHAI’s Community Conversations program. She said that the program promotes understanding between African-American and Jewish residents in the area.

“We meet on a monthly basis to look at issues of race in the neighborhood and ways to bridge the divide — or perceived divide — between the two groups,” she explained.

Levy cited a recent scenario, where two camps — one Orthodox Jewish and the other a camp run by 21st Century Learning Center with predominantly African-American students — are sharing space at Cross Country Elementary School. The camps have run a handful of activities together to let the youth acknowledge, interact and learn about one another.

“Community Conversations is designed to promote these types of activities,” said Levy, “to break down some of these real and perceived barriers between our African-American and Jewish residents.”

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