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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Thought Crime Took Transit?

Last month, the ridiculous argument that transit brings crime into the innocent little suburbs was revisited in response to this article in Freakonomics. More recently, Just Up the Pike followed a shooting that occurred on a Silver Spring bus recently, prompting more discussion on the possibility that mass transit has an effect on crime.

I eventually had to defend this argument to a good friend of mine who happens to be a Baltimore City police officer. His anecdotal claim: the subway in Baltimore has done absolutely nothing to positively impact the safety of the surrounding areas, and if anything has made them worse.

I argue that it has more to do with the bad urbanism for which the Baltimore Metro is now notorious. I believe even bad transit can positively impact crime rates in many cases, if for no other reason than by potentially lowering the cost of living. But perhaps the fact of the presence of transit has no impact on crime whatsoever, perhaps the onus lies entirely on the good urbanism that ought to come with transit. Maybe large, spread out parking lots are what really draw crime. Many transit stations have those, and it's bad urbanism. I certainly feel much safer getting off at Gallery Place late at night versus Greenbelt for that reason.

Recently, some federal employees at Fort Meade received an email alert cautioning them to stay away from Arundel Mills Mall after dark. Think about that: stay away from the largest shopping center in Central Maryland while the holiday shopping rush looms upon us. Why? Inside Charm City points toward this Baltimore Sun article that tells of a woman and her young child being robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot. Most disturbing is the fact that police believe that this crime is unrelated to two other robberies that took place around the giant oasis of auto-oriented commerce near the MD-100 interchange with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. I did some further pecking and found another Sun article published just Thursday. There have been five robberies in the Arundel Mills parking lot in just the last month. Concerns over the robberies were echoed on MyFoxDC.

Urbanism doesn't get much worse than at Arundel Mills:

View Larger Map

But in most of the robberies reported there, did the criminals hop on the light rail back to Baltimore city? No, they hopped into a car and then disappeared into traffic. But no one ever says "That new highway is going to bring more crime!"


Malnurtured Snay said...

Well ... but areas with highways ARE high crime areas, because someone can rob a Royal Farms, jump in their car, and be in, say, Pennsylvania, ten minutes later (I used to live on the I-83 corridor north of Baltimore). So, by that logic, I don't see why it's so unreasonable to assume that proximity to a mode of rapid transit (be it car or Metro train) gives an area the potential to be a target for crime.

Malnurtured Snay said...

Also - I think that mall is where a Secret Service agent was shot a couple of years ago when he tried to intervene in a shooting.

Douglas A. Willinger said...

I heard the same sort of nonsense in Alexandria against the WWB bike paths; and for that matter, I-26 in Appalachia because it would be used by contraband pharmaceuticals runners.

Me thinks that the opponents of infrastructure improvements continue to scrap the bottom of the barrel for "ideas"!

arundelmillsinfo said...

It is unfortunate that the internet has become a tool that can be very quickly used for passing along information that is sometimes inaccurate. Anne Arundel County Police have verified that information currently circulating in several emails regarding Arundel Mills is not correct. Visit view AACPD's press release.

Arundel Mills is part of the community and what happens in the community, unfortunately sometimes happens at the mall. The Arundel Mills area has experienced a few incidents during the last two months. However, during this same time period over two million people have safely visited Arundel Mills.

The safety of Arundel Mills shoppers and employees is our top priority and something we take very seriously. Arundel Mills offers vehicle, bike, Segway and foot patrols and operates an extensive CCTV system 24/7/365. Arundel Mills offers security related services such as escorts and direct dial access to security from all mall pay telephones. The center utilizes off duty police officers that supplement the Anne Arundel County provided police officers based in and around Arundel Mills and works daily with the Anne Arundel County Police to ensure the safety of our customers and employees.

Security involves everyone. Arundel Mills encourages everyone, regardless of where they shop or visit, to use common sense safety tips such as always locking vehicle doors, never leaving valuables visible in a vehicle, being aware of surroundings, and being prepared with keys in hand when walking to and from any shopping center. If something just doesn't look right, they should return to the building and ask for assistance or call 911.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Anne Arundel County Police at 410-220-8610 or or Arundel Mills at

Dave Murphy said...

Bottom line is, people aren't safe in mall parking lots, and lately they are especially unsafe in Arundel Mills Mall's.