Last month, Freakonomics revisited the ridiculous argument that transit brings crime into the innocent little suburbs. More recently, Just Up the Pike followed a shooting that occurred on a Silver Spring bus recently, prompting more discussion on the possibility that mass transit increases crime.
I had to defend transit to a Baltimore City police officer and friend of mine. His anecdotal claim: the subway in Baltimore has done absolutely nothing to positively impact the safety of the surrounding areas, and if anything has made them worse.
I argued that the crime stems more from the bad urbanism for which the Baltimore Metro is now notorious. Even bad transit can often alleviate crime, by lowering the cost of living. But perhaps the presence of transit has no impact on crime whatsoever. Perhaps the onus lies entirely on the good urbanism that ought to come with transit. Maybe the large, spread out parking lots at many transit stations really draw crime. I certainly feel much safer getting off at Gallery Place late at night than at Greenbelt.
Recently, some federal employees at Fort Meade received an email alert cautioning them to stay away from Arundel Mills Mall after dark. Think about that: stay away from the largest shopping center in Central Maryland while the holiday shopping rush looms upon us. Why? Inside Charm City points out this Baltimore Sun article about a woman and her young child being robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot.
Most disturbingly, police believe that this crime is unrelated to two other recent robberies around the giant oasis of auto-oriented commerce at MD-100 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. According to another Sun article on Thursday, there have been five robberies in the Arundel Mills parking lot in just the last month. MyFoxDC echoed the community’s concern.
Urbanism doesn’t get much worse than at Arundel Mills:
In most of these robberies, did the criminals hop on the light rail back to Baltimore city? No, they hopped into a car and then disappeared into traffic. But no one ever says “That new highway is going to bring more crime!”
Cross-posted on Imagine, DC.