Baltimore, MD – Fells Point business owners sent a letter to Baltimore city officials that threatened they would all withhold taxes and permit fees if the police didn’t clean up the violent scene that has erupted in the popular tourist area.
The letter, which was signed by the owners of 37 Fells Point businesses, was sent after three people were shot on Saturday night on Thames Street and Aliceanna Street, WJZ reported.
“We have reached our breaking point,” the letter read. “Our elected leaders have closed their eyes and ears and turned their backs on our community for long enough. We are fed up and frustrated, and we now realize that nothing will change unless we demand action.”
The business owners said in the letter that the city having officers “ignore” minor crimes had created the lawless situation that had taken over Fells Point, complete with open-air drug sales, fights, and even gunfire, WJZ reported.
“When it comes to prostitution, public urination and defecation, and the illegal sale and consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs on the streets, we know these crimes are not as serious as the carjackings, shootings, and homicides that have become routine,” the letter read. “But, as this past weekend proved, a culture of lawlessness rarely remains confined to petty offenses and invariably leads to the kinds of violence and tragedy we witnessed late Saturday night.”
The business owners called their neighborhood “one of the crown jewels of Baltimore” and said that problems in other areas of the city were taking root, WJZ reported.
“Frankly, it’s pathetic that we have to ask for these basics,” they wrote. “But this is where we are.”
The businesses advised the city that they would be putting their taxes, permit fees, and other funds withheld into an escrow account that would be released once the city had met their demands, WJZ reported.
“Many of us have obtained expensive liquor licenses and are subject to routine code inspection,” the letter read. “We are carefully regulated and pay taxes on the proceeds of our liquor and alcohol sales. Yet, there are individual vendors in Fells Point illegally selling large volumes of alcohol, marijuana, and a range of other illicit substances directly in front of our establishments with no consequences or penalties.”
Business owners demanded that the city crack down on the illegal drug and alcohol sales, and enforce traffic and parking laws in the area, WMAR reported.
They also want the city to get a handle on the growing garbage problem that has plagued Fells Point since large groups began hanging out there.
“The trash that piles up every week drifts into the Inner Harbor and hurts the environment, attracts rodents and fosters disease, and stinks up the streets and damages the beauty of our wonderful waterfront community. Every neighborhood, residential and commercial, is entitled to regular and reliable trash removal,” the business owners insisted in the letter.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced at the beginning of the pandemic that her office would stop prosecuting lower-level crimes such as open container violations, public urination, defecation, prostitution, and low level drug possession offenses, WMAR reported.
Fells Point business owners said in their letter that all of those crimes are being committed right in front of Baltimore police officers and the police aren’t doing anything to stop it.
Which is what Mosby intended when she wiped out 1,500 active arrest warrants for those crimes in early 2020, WMAR reported.
The business owners said in their letter that the lack of enforcement of the petty crimes has led to a violent situation in the neighborhood, and they demanded city officials have the police department take action.
Mosby responded to the criticism from the Fells Point business owners and defended her policies, WMAR reported.
“Having the police respond to the Harbor for an open container makes absolutely no sense when we have an increase in non-fatal shootings and homicides,” the prosecutor said. “It’s about resource allocation. You can’t have it both ways. We want to deploy our officers in a way that makes sense for trying to change the trajectory of violence in our city.”
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott released a statement shortly after he received a copy of the letter, WJZ reported.
“Mayor Scott shares the business owners’ frustrations over the violence across the city, and has ordered the Baltimore Police Department, Department of Public Works, and Department of Transportation to work collaboratively to address it,” the statement read. “The Mayor is working tirelessly to hold people committing violence accountable, remove violent offenders from our streets, and identify illegal firearm traffickers so Baltimore residents can enjoy a night out without fear of endangerment.”
There had been 143 homicides and 288 non-fatal shootings in Baltimore since the start of the year, as of June 8, WMAR reported.