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Murder, She Wrote

Posted 1/25/2006

I am a victim of two of the murders that occurred this year (“Murder by Numbers,” Jan. 18). One was my mother, Robin Blankenship, and one was my aunt Shirley Crabson (who was disabled; she had Down syndrome). Your article really hit home considering that we are still going through the trauma left by the murders. My father’s court date is coming up soon, and it seems like it will never end. Believe me, I never in a million years expected this to happen to our family, and it has been a nightmare.

We did contact the city’s Family Bereavement Center, and they did everything in their power to help the family, and they gave me all the information I needed to contact the resources outside of their reach. I just wanted to thank you, and to say that your article put a name to my mother and aunt, and they are not just numbers. My mother and aunt touched so many lives (there were over 700 people at the viewings); it is truly unbelievable what happened to them. I just hope that no one ever has to go through the pain and suffering that I and my siblings have gone through, but it seems like with the murder rate being so high, someone else will go through it. God forbid it happens to you. Just remember that there is help out there, and people who have already been through it.

Traci Blankenship-Scott

Gritty in Guilford

I recently read your article on the murders in Baltimore, and it was very informative. I noticed that there was no mention of how criminals are handled, and the consequences they face when caught. I think that our judicial system is the real reason for the horrible crime rate in this city. A lot of the time when someone is arrested they get off with a slap on the hands due to some ridiculous loophole the shameless lawyers seem to find. Imagine what confidence that gives the police. Why bother? Our society is going right off the deep end with criminal rights; we are headed for big trouble when the criminals have more rights than the victims. They have no fear of committing crimes when they have a good chance of little or no punishment. This city has left-winged itself right into its own hell.

We live in Guilford, and the citizens in our neighborhoods suffer from a large amount of what they call nuisance crimes—that is what the city considers anything that does not end in murder. Someone holding a gun to your head or beating you up for your wallet is not considered any big deal—it’s all about getting the murder rate down. I heard directly from a police officer that they are not allowed to deploy officers to our area for break-ins, theft from cars, and such—they concentrate all their forces on the other side of York Road where the big-time stuff is murder.

Consequently, they push the crime from that area to ours, and who do you think pays most of the taxes in this city? We have a terribly high property tax rate, and for what? The schools are horrible, and we all have to send our kids to private school. The crime is bad: Our neighbor has been robbed four or five times, a guy was robbed at gunpoint across the street, and our pet sitter won’t come into our neighborhood at night anymore because she was beaten up very badly by two thugs attempting to rob her. It took the police over 20 minutes to get there after the call! A friend of hers was robbed up the street at gunpoint, and the man followed her into the house where he robbed her roommates at gunpoint as well—after the call to police, who arrived between 15 and 20 minutes later. I could go on, but I’m just mentioning the things I know about within a few blocks of my house, and things that were relatively recent. Was anyone caught? Hell no, not worth their effort, nobody was murdered.

Oh, and our services, what a joke! Do you know they actually have guys walk down the alley before the trash truck comes to pick all your bagged trash out and set it on the ground, then the truck comes down with another crew to pick up only what was taken out of your cans? What a bloody waste of our tax dollars, OMG! And the recycling system . . . that is the ultimate, let’s not even go there. This city is spiraling out of control, and someone needs to take the bull by the horns and pull it back in. We really need someone to take a stiff upper hand. Baltimore has one of the highest crime rates in the country. Hell, it’s no wonder—it’s like a spa resort for criminals here.

Maggie Blom

(Ret)-attribution is Sweet

As a former Sun copy editor, I rolled my eyes when I read the following in David Simon’s essay on plagiarism (“On Background,” Jan. 18): “Olesker acknowledges this, calling his performance sloppy and saying if an editor had requested attribution, he would have volunteered the Times article readily.”

Michael Olesker was one of the Sun’s sacred cows that we mere mortals were not supposed to question. The one time I dared break that rule and deigned to call him, he asked me how old I was as a way of telling me how silly he viewed anyone who questioned his abilities.

With that memory in mind, it’s no surprise to me that no editors asked Olesker questions, let alone even thought of asking him whether he’d put anything in his column du jour that someone else had written.

Shame on him.

Robin Reid

Rock On

Kudos once again to City Paper for giving credit where it’s due, hon (“Garage Days Revisited,” Arts & Entertainment, Jan. 18). I’ve been hearing about George Brigman’s boffo flea-market record for God knows how long (bassist John Spokus is an ex-band mate o’ mine), and, as an aged rocker myself, it’s nice to see anybody getting anything. And by the way, I’m running for governor!

Adolf Kowalski

Pickin’ On Ditkoff

Cindy Rehm wrote (The Mail, Jan. 18): “After three years, and over 20 projects, there was ample opportunity for City Paper to see spare room in the flesh. I am disappointed that that sort of research didn’t happen.”

Editor Lee Gardner responded: “Anna e-mailed your UMBC account on Dec. 28 to request more information about the exhibit in question and received no response.”

Well, I think that explains it all. When a simple phone call to the phone number given, or to any of perhaps three dozen knowledgeable people on the scene (including the UMBC art department office), would have revealed that Ms. Rehm is now in residence at Middle Tennessee State University and no longer using her UMBC account. Oh, wait, I got ahead of myself: the correct MTSU address was at the bottom of the press release that went to the spare room mailing list.

I don’t wish to take away from City Paper’s other obvious excellences, or Ms. Ditkoff’s hard work on other topics near and dear (to wit: murders and bars), but when it comes to recommending and informing the public about notable arts activities, may I suggest, without being too negative, that it would be very good of you and yours to kindly get with the program. The program being, in this case, the application of basic journalism practices.

Ms Rehm also remarked: “Perhaps the ‘Critic’s Choice’ should be renamed ‘Happenings Around Town’ or ‘A Press Release We Got (Which We Haven’t Researched) That We’ll Give to You Verbatim With a Bit of Irony.’” I would suggest “Snarky Remark Showcase”—just for a little punch and truthfulness. In lieu of that, sticking with just a nice picture and the four W’s would represent an improvement.

David Crandall

Dead . . . Wrapped in Plastic

I would like to comment about the Critic’s Pick by Bret McCabe (“Twin Peaks Mini-Con,” Baltimore Weekly, Jan. 18). This highly biased rant by Mr. McCabe is not only offensive and incorrect, but a gross misuse of the English language. Not once, but twice does Mr. McCabe resort to slang terms in this pitiful hate piece, using “y’all” and “prolly” as if they’re actually words. That might be alright for a midnight IM, but I like my newspapers a bit more grammatically correct. Furthermore, myself and my friends who have so skillfully organized this highly anticipated event this weekend are not in the least bit “poseurs,” as McCabe calls us. I am one of those who broke my neck to reach home week after week, when I was 16 might I add, to catch Twin Peaks. I hope Mr. McCabe does show at the convention and announces his presence so we might all have a lick of his pie and a spit in his coffee.

Jessica Batten

Bret McCabe bitches about the people who didn’t watch Twin Peaks when it was on TV, but I would like to say that I personally was too young to watch it when it was a network show. And I probably wouldn’t have even gotten it. (Like I do now, ha ha!) I was introduced to it a scant few months ago by my friend Jeremy, and fell in love with it. And yes, I would consider myself a fan. According to McCabe’s logic, you can’t be a fan of a movie if you didn’t see it in the theater, or the fan of a band if you’ve never seen them live. How elitist of him! Oh, that’s right, I forgot City Paper writers were a golden elite of original thinkers! I guess we can’t all be like old man McCabe, who had to walk uphill both ways between the TV set and the fridge during commercial breaks while Twin Peaks was originally airing.

Jessah Serafini

Bashed Like Me

Reading Leo Williams’ letter to The Mail (Jan. 4), I was at first immune to the obvious rhetoric of intolerance, but the noncynical side of me kicked in after a while, and for what it’s worth, I decided to respond. Let’s just skip over the assertion that “Homosexuals are largely responsible for one of the deadliest epidemics in history” as this is purely rhetorical nonsense and not worthy of debate. Let’s instead address the main thesis of his comments, which involves the comparison of the African-American civil-rights struggle and the struggle of “homosexuals” for the same civil rights. Mr. Williams denies the legitimacy of the latter on the basis of a “my oppression is worse than your oppression” argument. An argument that I must say was laughably unsupported in his letter.

More importantly it may come as a shock to Mr. Williams, given his assertion that the civil-rights struggle of African-Americans is not the same as that of “homosexuals,” that the NAACP quite clearly disagrees with him. I had the pleasure of attending the Jazz Brunch fundraiser sponsored by Equality Maryland (a political action organization advocating same-sex marriage equality in Maryland) in November 2005. The fundraiser, which was extremely well attended, featured as its keynote speaker NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. The always eloquent Bond said in effect that the struggle that strengthens my neighbors’ civil rights also strengthens mine.

The NAACP officially weighed in on the side of the marriage equality initiative whose proponents are, for the most part, “homosexuals.” The knowledge of this alliance should be food for thought for African-Americans, who sometimes have difficulty connecting with the civil-rights struggle of minorities or oppressed groups other than themselves. I am sure this won’t change the mind of Leo Williams, but I am an optimist, and hope like hatred does spring eternally.

Mark E. Walden

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