Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh hit the streets of West Baltimore on Tuesday to check on the effects of her Violence Reduction Initiative, and stopped to criticize small business owners in the process (video below).
Baltimore’s violent crime rate surged in April, to include 29 killings since the first of the month, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“We’re on top of it,” Pugh said. “We understand the intelligence. We know about the various gangs that are at war right now.”
As she strolled the streets with a posse of city agency representatives and police administrators in an attempt to showcase her involvement with the community, Pugh took a particular interest in blaming the small business owners who operated stores in the area for the crime spike.
The mayor waltzed into A&M Grocery, where she addressed a store employee, video footage from The Baltimore Sun showed.
“So what time y’all close?” she asked someone off camera, as she stood with her arm around a young woman who was wearing earbuds.
“Um, like 11:30,” a man standing next to her replied with a smile.
“Isn’t that late?” Pugh retorted, initially not even acknowledging the man who had answered her.
“Isn’t that late?” she repeated, finally directing her attention to the man beside her.
“Eleven thirty,” the man said again, with what appeared to be a hint of confusion.
“That’s a little late,” Pugh declared, as she again ignored the man. “Cuz’ it keeps the crowds around here.”
“Nine o’clock would be nice,” Pugh said as she turned away from the employee altogether, and looked directly at the camera.
“Yeah. We need y’all to close at nine o’clock at night,” she declared.
While inside another Pennsylvania Avenue store, the mayor ordered the health department to expedite the business’s next health inspection.
“These stores on Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue need inspections,” the mayor said. “Health Department, I’m going to expect you to get in there and inspect those places because some of those places need to be shut down.”
“How many mini markets do we need in one area?” Pugh questioned. “How many carry-outs do we need in one area?”
“If you have one mini-market on the block, is there a need for three?” she asked dismissively. “What are they selling, Fritos and soda?”
According to Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, 60 percent of violent crimes in the Northern District occurred inside or near a handful of small businesses, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Store owners pushed back on Wednesday, and noted that the mayor’s criticisms and demands could end up driving taxpaying businesses out of the low-income neighborhood.
Less competition would likely result in price increases in an area where many people don’t have the means to travel to larger supermarkets outside the neighborhood, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“These convenience stores are some of the only places people may have to go to grab something within a mile of their home,” Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair Tolle said. “I don’t know that we should be trying to discourage them from remaining in communities.”
Tolle agreed that stores that were proved to be involved in criminal offenses should obviously be held accountable, but did not believe the mayor was tackling the core issue.
“I don’t know that walking into a retail business and telling them to close in a free market makes any sense,” Tolle said.
Watch the Baltimore mayor’s visit to A&M Grocery in the video below: