Wandering Eye: A neo-noir crime blotter, data on parking in Baltimore, and more

Routine police coverage, ever a staple of local reporting, was epitomized in Baltimore by The Sun's Dick Irwin, who retired in 2010 after 44 years of slogging out the minutiae of blood and busts, and died in 2013The Baltimore Guide also has a long history of producing neighborhood-level crime reporting, especially under late editor Jackie Watts, who died in December. But here's a whole other take on the genre: "Jim Knipfel Crime Blotter." Noir-loving Knipfel, writer of the long-running Slackjaw column and author of several books (including 1999's memoir "Slackjaw," which Thomas Pynchon famously adored, and the soon-to-be-released novel "Residue"), has thankfully started re-telling stories of misdemeanors and mayhem in fact-packed, aside-laden, entertaining prose on the regular. When one reads a sentence like this—"It became the first murder ever recorded in the little town of Duck (and let's not even get started with that name), but you gotta admit it's a pretty memorable one, what with the Antichrist killing a guy in church and all"—more is a tantalizing necessity. (Disclosure: I used to share an office with Knipfel when we both were staff writers for the now-defunct New York Press.) (Van Smith)

 

Parking being what it is in Baltimore, it's not surprising that a light-hearted look at the lengths city councilmembers are required to go on behalf of constituents who are inconvenienced by tickets—which City Paper published in December—would be met by data hounds. Now comes Justin Elszasz, who analyzed the city's parking ticket database to conclude that—surprise—the issue is not so big, in the grand scheme of things. "What is curious is that the open data for parking citations at the 4200 block of Wickford Rd. are not showing a rampant citation issue as the article or residents suggest," the blog post says, above a bar graph depicting more than 20 citations in April of 2014 and 15 in November-December. But the data looks like exactly the sort of thing the residents complained (and CP wrote) about—sporatic, complaint-driven hard-assery. We were careful not to quantify the damage because we did not have the tools or time to do the analysis Elszasz did. And he confirms what City Paper reported, right down to our tone. We said the residents—who actually have garages on their back alley—are inconvenienced by the law prohibiting them from parking on the curb, facing the wrong way. Elszasz says: "It truly pales in comparison to some of the blocks I've been looking at recently. The article claims that parking tickets have appeared in the middle of the night, 'depicting the parking enforcement agents as thieves in the night.' It looks like that actually was the case a couple few times - around 4:30am on April 4 and 8, 2014, and around 2:30am on April 18, 2014. But overall, this article and the residents on this block appear to be making something out of nothing. The grand total of fines issued for the 41 citations above is $1,312." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

The debate about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Congressional Iran speech—and other issues related to Israel and the Palestinians—comes to Baltimore next weekend, with the national membership meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is among the most far-left groups representing American Jews in the debate (its mission statement reads, in part, "JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians"). The meeting, to be held at the Hyatt Regency downtown, comes just weeks after the convention in Washington, D.C. of the more mainstream AIPAC, which featured speakers including Netanyahu, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice (that the hawkish Menendez got much louder cheers for his speech about Iran than the dovish Rice did for hers speaks volumes about the perspective of the AIPAC conference's 16,000 attendees). The perspective should be considerably different at the JVP event, where the speakers include Angela Davis, Rabbi Brant Rosen, and Sa'ed Atshan. Those whose ideology is somewhere between AIPAC and JVP could wait a few more weeks for the convention of J-Street, the more mainstream leftist group, coming to D.C. March 21. (Evan Serpick)

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