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Murder, Think!

Posted 9/15/2004

I would suggest Anna Ditkoff stop blatantly riding the coattails of The Baltimore Sun with her Murder Ink column. I expect a bias against the city I often read in a written-by-people-from-almost-everywhere-but-Baltimore paper, so I figure City Paper could come up with a column somewhat more interesting than the running tab The Sun offers. OK, it does puts names to the murders—and that is a genuine need so the suburban folk aren’t muttering, “Oh those darned people in the city,” over their morning sugared cereal (low-carb, of course). They may look and see that it was a child killed and be horrified . . . perhaps not—it is that darned city, after all. In any case, it’s time to launch some new columns that speak to the issues in fresh ways, perhaps even helping solve some of the problems.

How bout “Murder Ink: B.C.”—as in Baltimore County. I have tried to find murder stats for the county through Internet searches, always managing to find the city but never the county. I am aware that the rates may not be as high, but I’d like to shake up the notion that living in the county makes one “safe.”

Meaningless graphics help sell papers—just look at the fifth-grade reading level of USA Today and it’s myriad stupid charts and graphs. So how ’bout a pie chart dividing up the city murders into what they are related to. That way a potential city dweller or visitor can find out what kind of activities to avoid if you want to stay alive. Bet we find that the average citizen has less to worry about than being drafted by the United States military. (Oops—is that not public information yet?)

Another truly useful column would be tracking the suburbanites who come into the city to buy drugs or pick up prostitutes. Studying the ZIP codes of these offenders could be useful to dealers and pimps so they can establish “trade zones” in the areas of their biggest users rather than concentrate it one area like Baltimore City.

Having established my residency here in 1987, I have seen the good with the bad: a three-term mayor who pretended the city did not exist (and I did vote for him . . . once); a city struggling to get itself out of an addiction, poverty, and murder spiral; exciting cultural events; great television at the expense of our city’s downsides; a Super Bowl victory (maybe even a World Series—see how much I know about sports); $2 million waterfront houses selling before they are built on properties we once could not give away; $20 million hotels being built on land we now give away to billionaires; and most notably (to me anyway) the birth of my son.

The last of these events is why I’d like to see some more attention given to the problems behind the headlines and the easy-target columns. I’d like my son to grow into a city that has a future, but simply stating the facts with no solutions ain’t gonna cut it. Now that The Sun has been reduced to the news on my log-in Internet home page (which I have already read the day before they report it), we need credible and responsible journalism from somebody in this town. City Paper gets elected by default, and try as you like to hide it, I have seen good solid reporting and exceptional writing from your staff.

We’ve endured the snoozy Bar Scars and the repetitive news of Murder Ink. Please relocate Ms. Ditkoff’s respectable talents into news we could put to use in this Humpty-Dumpty city of ours trying desperately to put itself back together again.

Steven Parke


I wanted to comment on Bret McCabe’s article on hip-hop singles (Music, “Charts and Minds,” Sept. 8). I thought it was such a good review of current rap music. Jadakiss’ song “Why” is such an amazing song, and it shows that rap does have meaning.

Elise Cohen

Another Case of Bad Timing

I received a red-light-camera ticket under the same circumstances as the Nose (“Seeing Amber,” Aug. 18). I feel that the city has again started placing the amber light at three seconds because it can get away it with because of legislation.

I attended court this morning, and I expressed that, according to the Institute of Traffic Engineers, in a 30 mph zone the amber light should be at least 3.2 seconds. In court, there was a person from the company that represents the camera operations (which is profiting from this by margins of 40 percent to 45 percent). The judge clearly only looks for a three-second amber light. In fact, the judge actually made a few comments that were demeaning to me such as, “I don’t know where you were coming or going at 2:37 a.m.” (She didn’t ask me.)

I would like City Paper to look into how we can change the legislation in Baltimore City to follow the standards set by the Institute of Highway Traffic Engineers. I would be more than happy to talk about my court experience again. As a city resident, I feel here is another example of Baltimore City taking money to be misused and not provide the service that we should receive.

Shaheen Mohajer

The Nose responds: State law already requires a 3.5 second amber at 30 mph intersections, with increased times determined by relevant traffic engineers’ data and then rounded up to the next half-second interval. Any traffic judges care to dispute this? Anyone?

The Right Profile

I wish to commend your newspaper for the wonderful article that Rebecca Alvania wrote about the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council (“Epidemic Proportions,” Aug. 11). She accurately portrayed our struggles as we try to plan health and supportive services with the limited funds of the Ryan White grant coming into the Baltimore metropolitan area. All of our members are volunteers, working without compensation for serving on the planning council. They give generously of their time, attending a minimum of two meetings per month. The commitment of these people is extraordinary and the article gives them public recognition that they deserve.

We appreciate the time Ms. Alvania spent learning about the impact of HIV on individuals. She presented the issues people with HIV/AIDS face each day in trying to manage their health and seeking services when they have little or no insurance.

Even though we are over 20 years into the epidemic, too many people in the Baltimore area are still becoming infected. Her article may help reach individuals whose behaviors put them at risk of infection and encourage them to get tested or seek information to reduce their risks. This article may reach those who have been tested and know they are infected with the virus but who have not sought medical care.

Thank you for publishing this article, and special thanks to Rebecca Alvania for her sensitivity in interviewing individuals with HIV and then accurately reporting their stories and concerns. We are also grateful for her presentation of our efforts to make the best decisions about the grant funds coming into the Baltimore region.

Debbie Rock
Chair, Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council

Too Early For The Ball?

It was disappointing to read City Paper’s Democratic National Convention story in its the Nose column (“Alone at the Ball,” Aug. 4). We can only assume the Nose did not actually attend the convention due to the unquestionably false report that City Council President Sheila Dixon “sat almost entirely alone” in Maryland’s delegation section. Moreover, the gross misreporting of the facts can only make one assume that whoever made this “observation” purposely took the picture out of context to mislead the Nose.

The truth of the matter is the photo was taken at the very beginning of the evening and very few delegates had arrived. Anyone who witnessed that tremendous night’s events would seriously object to the blatant mischaracterization of the photo and laugh at the notion that anyone had the least bit of hesitation to sit next to our distinguished Baltimore City Council president.

The individual who reported this nonsense should have his or her eyes and/or motives examined. What a shame he or she has taken the cynical opportunity to smear rather than celebrate what was a terrific week for Maryland and our nation.

We’re confident the Nose had no intention to smear Ms. Dixon, but we would urge that he or she examine the sources that may have questionable motives.

Isiah Leggett
Chairman, Maryland Democratic Party

Editor’s note: We’ve been getting your calls and e-mails since early this year asking when we were going to run our annual Fiction and Poetry Contest. The wait is over. Dust off those manuscripts and please turn to page 85 for full details. And may the best writers win.

Also with this issue, we welcome contributor Gadi Dechter to the masthead as a staff writer.

Coming up next week: our annual Best of Baltimore extravaganza.

Address letters to The Mail, City Paper, 812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201; fax: (410) 523-0138; e-mail. Only letters that address material published in or policies of CP, are no more than 500 words long, and include the writer’s name, address, and daytime phone number will be considered for publication. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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