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:
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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!"