Wandering Eye: Safe Streets busted again, Baltimore gets a new Humans of New York-esque project, and more

Safe Streets was busted again yesterday after two armed robbers ducked into the office. The Sun has the story of how pursuing police found seven guns and "heroin, cocaine, and other items used in the manufacturing and sale of drugs, including cutting agents and scales." This is becoming routine. "The program has had trouble in the past, with offices previously suspended in 2010 and 2013 amid criminal allegations against employees," The Sun noted. Federal authorities tied the west side office to the Black Guerrilla Family in 2010, but the charge didn't stick. The program is based on the idea of violence is an epidemic, and "interrupters" who have been violent in the past are the best way to stop it. They have credibility on the street, and information cops lack, goes the theory. And so ex-felons are hired at decent salaries to mediate disputes and stop shootings before they happen. It works—according to everyone invested in the program. The "Safe Streets" model (under other names like "Ceasefire" or "Cure Violence") is currently used in cities nationwide, with similar results. In Chicago, domestic battery, drug sales, rape, and diamond-theft charges stalled the program. In New York: same story. The programs pledge not to work with police—in order to "maintain credibility" in the community. But the program is built on the assumption that most violent criminals will not re-offend once they have a steady wage and a "straight" job. It assumes there is no such thing as a "bad guy," just people caught up in circumstances. Change the circumstances and you change the outcome, goes the theory. Nine people were arrested in Baltimore on Monday, including two Safe Streets employees. Howard Libit, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said, "The Mayor remains supportive of the program and the effective way it has been able to reach many people in our city and reduce crime. But she recognizes the program must be vigilant with respect to the activities of the program's participants and staff members." (Edward Ericson Jr.)


The Department of Transportation chief in Iowa, Paul Trombino, recently made a statement that seems like a pretty bold admission from a DOT official: Iowa should let some of its roads die. "I said the numbers before. 114,000 lane miles, 25,000 bridges, 4,000 miles of rail. I said this a lot in my conversation when we were talking about fuel tax increases. It’s not affordable. Nobody’s going to pay," he said in a recent Urban Land Institute talk, CityLab reports. ". . . And my personal belief is that the entire system is unneeded. And so the reality is, the system is going to shrink." As City Lab points out, evidence shows that per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is on the decline, and when you look at the state-by-state data, it suggests that the decline may be permanent in nature (in some states, VMT has been going down for more than 15 years). We decided to poke around for some Maryland-specific data, and as it turns out, this trend holds in Maryland, too. A January 2014 report MDOT released, the 2035 Maryland Transportation Plan, says that since 2005, "total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the State has held steady at around 55 to 56 billion miles per year. . . . Demographic and economic trend data suggest a return to strong annual VMT growth is unlikely and per capita VMT in Maryland is actually decreasing after decades of growth." But while VMT is decreasing, "average weekday transit ridership (all modes) in Maryland grew from around 320,000 riders per month in 2006 to 366,000 riders per month in FY 2012, representing a 14 percent increase." So road usage is decreasing and public transit ridership is increasing—but Gov. Larry Hogan killed the Red Line and gave $2 billion to road projects in the state, while fares for MTA services have gone up. The data just makes the state leadership's transit plans even more frustrating. (Anna Walsh)


Photographer Joe Rubino and social media strategist Meryam Bouadjemi are starting Close Up Baltimore, modeled off the popular site Humans of New York, which details the lives of everyday New Yorkers, The Sun reports. Like many others, Rubino says the narrative about Baltimore needs to change in the wake of Freddie Gray's death in police custody and the protests that followed. "We needed to change the narrative about Baltimore," he told The Sun. "We thought the best way to do that would be to talk to people who contribute to the rich life in the city and give a different a view than the one represented by the national media." The photog says he's already interviewed 100 people from a dozen different neighborhoods. In the meantime, if you've been looking for compelling stories about Baltimoreans, check out our feature City Folk. (Brandon Weigel)

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