I was sitting in my living room reading on Monday when I heard the sound of helicopters above my house, sadly, again. I soon learned there had been a shooting at the Dundalk Village Shopping Center in the exact same place where one had occurred barely 3 months earlier, in October. No names have been released so far — not the victim’s, not the suspect’s — who thankfully has been apprehended. I couldn’t find any names involved in the October incident either. Why is that? What is happening?
A generation ago our once charming neighborhood shopping center included a grocery and men’s clothing store, along with a bank and pharmacy. Everything a family needed to conduct their business within walking distance of their homes. Now it has become a magnet for loitering, drug dealing, violence, and a hangout for the homeless. It is not lost on most people that every Baltimore County community that shares a boundary with Baltimore City has experienced an increase in the violent behavior and crime that plagues the city. Dundalk is one of those communities. While this is not your fault — you promised to make things better. Instead, they’ve gotten worse. Criminals need to be identified and locked up — not returned to the streets. Please, please, do something about it!
In addition to the retail businesses in that particular location, there exists a drug rehab center and a family crisis center. We didn’t experience the problems we have today before their existence. Mixing social programs with retail operations that include a bank and a pharmacy seems like a recipe for failure — which we are all witnessing firsthand from what used to be our quiet, drama-free neighborhoods surrounding the shopping center.
Over the years local government has taken advantage of the people of Dundalk, many of whom are the children and grandchildren of legal immigrants who came here to find work and raise their families. In exchange, the county has treated Dundalk like a stepchild, taking advantage of the blue-collar industries it supports while dumping the walking wounded from other parts of the county on its streets. And now, it seems, we’re being infiltrated with the same lawlessness and lack of societal structure the city of Baltimore has allowed to exist. I don’t call this progress.
Our politicians over the years have justified the placement of such “needed” county services by proclaiming that Dundalk has a higher rate of drug use and domestic violence than other parts of the county. Having been here long before those politicians, and before the crime we now endure on a daily basis, and before such rates were calculated, I would maintain that “if you build it, they will come.” And they did. So here we are — an extension of the city’s failed example of a government attracting the underserved, the undereducated, and the underemployed. The people of Dundalk worked hard, played hard, and took care of their neighborhoods. Our reward was being subjected to an increase in low-income rental housing that now surrounds our community and have had Section 8 housing jammed down our throats when we didn’t want it. The crime rate around our neighborhood now includes frequent reports of gun shots, almost weekly flyovers by police helicopters, and people walking through our neighborhood checking door handles.
There is plenty of large, unused real estate just sitting in and around the county. Perhaps one of those parcels could be used to house the crisis center, the rehab center, as well as a job training center, a youth services center and maybe a re-entry program. Give us back our neighborhood full-service YMCA. Give us back our library. Give us back our police station satellite. Get rid of the loitering, the panhandling, and lock up the criminals. Give us back our confidence to go to that shopping center without fear of intimidation or harm. Please, Mr. O, Dundalk could be a model for the rest of the county. Back in the day, the citizens of Dundalk and the surrounding area could make a living working for Lever Brothers, Bethlehem Steel, General Motors, and Fort Holabird — jobs that didn’t necessarily require a college degree. With the advent of Amazon and Tradepoint Atlantic — and an aggressive crime prevention plan — we could be that community again.
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