There were 2 murders, 3 shootings, 17 assaults, and 14 property crimes over the past 5 years at, and near, an abandoned lot on Ward Street in southwest Baltimore. One murder cost the life of a friend of a member in our latest SafeGrowth class.
Ward Street is in Pigtown, an up-and-coming area with Baltimore-style row houses, a reinvigorated commercial street, and a historic museum for the first American railway, the B&O Railroad (in the 1870s they unloaded pigs onto the streets for herding to nearby slaughterhouses – hence, Pigtown).
Over the years the area suffered a higher than average crime rate, numerous abandoned homes, and vacant lots like the one on Ward Street. But in recent years the area has started revitalizing and things are improving! Led by Ben Hyman, executive director of the nonprofit Pigtown Main Street association, the neighborhood hosted the first SafeGrowth training in the city of Baltimore.
The response to the training was outstanding. Participants in four SafeGrowth teams included residents of the community, Baltimore police, planners, local shop owners, university students, representatives from city hall, crime analysts, and others. One of those teams tackled the Ward Street vacant lot mentioned above.
During final presentations to the wider community, each team described their plans for improvement.
The Ward Street group was particularly impressive with their SafeGrowth Analysis and Transformational Plan. They recommended community engagement meetings, linking community groups to others across the city, and expanding programming within the lot itself. They plan to use community cleanup days to clean the lot, better activation with murals, signage, and improved lighting.
Integrating the police and the business association into their plan ensured a more sustainable way to cut crime at the lot and in the surrounding neighborhood. Their long-term vision was to create a community hub for local social and recreational activities.
As their instructor I was most impressed by the fact that, like the other three groups, they did this entire project in only 5 weeks, they fought time constraints and they battled a classic north-eastern winter snowstorm during their site visits and safety audits. How’s that for commitment!