For the current (July) issue of the magazine, I wrote a story about recent developments around the Inner Harbor geared toward the needs and desires of the growing number of families living downtown. The violence over the 4th of July weekend, which included the stabbing of a 26-year-old man outside McCormick and Schmick's on Pier 6 and the shooting (in the leg) of a 4-year-old boy who was watching the fireworks with his parents at Light and Pratt Street, are a reminder that the work is not done and Baltimore has a while to go before it can declare itself thoroughly "family-friendly."
As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I am a major booster of Baltimore. I grew up in the county and, after an extended sojourn in Yankee country, we moved back to Baltimore City three years ago and have only grown to appreciate it more and more. I really believe it's a wonderful place to raise a family, with seemingly endless resources, events, and—most importantly—wonderful families, neighborhoods, and educators who have made improving this city their life's work.
In fact, I sometimes get so caught up in the exciting—and seemingly accelerating—developments I chronicle and in debunking peoples' The Wire-influenced stereotypes about Baltimore that I can sometimes forget that Baltimore still has a fairly high crime rate. I still contend that Baltimore is as safe as any other major city—safer than many—and that it's a wonderful place for families to explore, but this is a reminder that we can't take safety for granted.
Perhaps this weekend's events are on my mind because they hit a little too close to home. We spent a good chunk of yesterday at the Harbor, playing at the Sondheim fountain (my boys, in Batman and red shorts, are pictured) and seeing Jason Moffett and Milkshake, as previewed on Friday. We thought about sticking around for fireworks but opted to pack it in and head home. When I saw the news this morning, I couldn't help but be grateful that we did. Of course, these were very isolated incidents over a weekend that saw thousands of people come through the harbor and have a great time. But, as a parent, it's hard not to think of the worst case scenario.
I heard second-hand someone saying that as a result of these incidents, they weren't taking their family to Artscape. How unfortunate it is that incidents like these inevitably set back the progress that so many people and neighborhoods have made. So many people—both out-of-towners and locals—already have negative stereotypes about Baltimore City and these incidents only serve to reinforce them.
I can honestly say that in our three years of exploring Baltimore City as a family, from Artscape, Honfest, and the African-American Festival to the International Festival, Lexington Market, and Flowermart, we have never felt unsafe, never had anything but positive interactions with the people we met. It helps that we have an early bedtime. I hope that this incident, at the very least, doesn't discourage parents from taking their kids to this city's many and varied neighborhoods and events.
As for night events, I have to admit that I will think long and hard about taking my kids to outdoor public events, where things have the potential to get (or feel) out of control. We take our kids on the light rail to night O's games and events at 1st Mariner Arena, and we'll continue to, but probably just a bit more nervously. Because until a four-year-old can be 100% safe watching the fireworks with his parents, there is still more work to be done.