Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.
Print Email

Feature

Shadow Players

Drilling Down Into Baltimore's Billion-Dollar "Informal Economy"

Milton Tillman Jr. in a 2006 booking photo
Rarah
Tony Hill
Frank Klein
Sebastian Sassi
Frank Klein
Glenn Ross

Videos

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 1/28/2009

Page 1 of 5.   1  2  3  4  5  

On Oct. 20, 2008, Mayor Sheila Dixon stood on a makeshift stage in the parking lot of Northwood Plaza, just off Loch Raven Boulevard in the city's Hillen neighborhood. Behind her sat several City Council members, a community activist, and the authors of the press conference's subject, a 60-page study that, among other things, claimed to find $1.2 billion of additional spending money in the 13 city neighborhoods studied. Behind the stage, brightly-painted cars with expensive 22-inch chrome wheels cruised by noisily, and behind those, a long-shuttered anchor store slouched.

Former City Councilman Kenneth Harris was gunned down on Sept. 20, during an early morning robbery of the New Haven Lounge jazz club, a few hundred feet away. The murder--the city's 158th last year--galvanized the community to push even harder for the redevelopment city officials believe will stifle and remove the violent crime that has plagued the surrounding blocks. The newly minted economic report, called the "Baltimore Neighborhood Market DrillDown," was presented by the mayor as the evidence needed to convince national retailers that Baltimore City is underrated as a market. The key metric: $872 million of previously uncounted income from what the report calls the "informal economy."

Presented by Social Compact, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that specializes in these studies, the DrillDown "validates what we already knew through intuition and observation," Dixon said, "that Baltimore is a strong market."

Yet "intuition and observation" have also told generations of Baltimoreans that the city is full of drugs, with perhaps 50,000 addicts served by thousands of street-corner drug dealers. It's a substantial business, and not the kind of enterprise near which grocery store owners want to locate. So it is perhaps not surprising that DrillDown's authors finesse the question of just how that $872 million of "informal" income is earned.

"We quantify the informal economy, but we don't say what kind of jobs go into it," says John Talmage, Social Compact's president and CEO.

That admission leads to more questions. How much is Baltimore City's drug economy worth? Who profits?

Over the past year, City Paper has published a series of loosely related stories about what we've come to call the "shadow economy." The articles spotlighted the ostensibly legitimate business interests of those charged and/or convicted with crimes relating to dealing drugs or laundering drug money, and the way that those interests intertwine with the more respectable aspects of the city's economy. As we pursued these stories, politically connected bail bondsman Milton Tillman Jr.'s name surfaced again and again. There remain more questions than answers about the city's drug economy and who its players are, but with a new year dawning, and with hard numbers quantifying the city's "informal economy" in hand, it seems like a good time to examine the situation.

Page 1 of 5.   1  2  3  4  5  

Related stories

Feature archives

More Stories

Blunderbusted (8/5/2010)
Two Maryland Men indicted in Arizona for illegal machine guns

The Big Hurt (8/4/2010)
Inmate claims gang-tied correctional officer ordered "hit"

Murder Ink (7/28/2010)

More from Edward Ericson Jr.

Old Habits (7/28/2010)
Medicalization is the hot new thing in drug treatment. Just like in 1970.

Room for Improvement (7/14/2010)
Celebrated crime control measure actually a flop, former chief reveals

Shelling Out (7/7/2010)
Mortgage broker goes bankrupt, seeks mortgage modification as taxpayers face mounting bailout bills

Related by keywords

Working Overtime : Correctional officer indicted in prison-gang RICO conspiracy 7/14/2010

Health-Care Worker Accused of Being at "Epicenter" of Baltimore Crime as Shot-Caller for Black Guerrilla Family in Mobtown Beat 4/16/2010

Guilty Plea for Theft and Lying in DEA Cop Case in The News Hole 4/14/2010

Inside Out : New Fed Charges Allege Prison Gang’s Street Operations Infiltrate Nonprofit Anti-Gang Efforts 4/14/2010

Washington Times Reports That Former State Department Official Kept Classified Documents in Public Storage Locker in Maryland in The News Hole 3/31/2010

in The News Hole 3/31/2010

in The News Hole 3/31/2010

in The News Hole 3/31/2010

in The News Hole 3/31/2010

in The News Hole 3/31/2010

Tags: shadow economy, milton tillman jr.

Comments powered by Disqus
Calendar
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter