Short of banging her fist on a table, merchant Denise Whiting couldn't have been more emphatic about the need for more police presence in and around The Avenue, at a time when property crime in Hampden is rising.
"We have to have a foot patrol officer," Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon and HONtown, told the Northern District's police commander, Maj. Kimberly Burrus, at a meeting of the Hampden Village Merchants Association on Sept. 11. "We need one desperately," Whiting said.
Burrus was just as emphatic in her response.
"I totally agree with you," Burrus said, citing a sharp rise in burglaries and larceny from auto. "I just don't have the resources to dedicate somebody. I can't do it."
But Whiting and other merchants wouldn't take no for an answer.
"It's a neighborhood that's unaccustomed to the crime it's been getting," said association president Benn Ray, co-owner of Atomic Books. "We've been patient ... but we're sick of it"
And merchants argued that a foot patrol officer would actually help police, because such an officer would have a finger on the pulse of crime and the "role players" involved.
"A walking foot patrol would know these people," Steve Baker, owner of the art studio Wholly Terra, told Burrus. "He'll have data for you."
But Burrus said, "It's impossible for me to give you something I don't have," though she added that she could reassign an officer to patrol the area temporarily.
The discussion ended on a brighter note, as Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said that she and Councilman Nick Mosby, who represent the area, might be able to get funding for a patrol officer.
"I think Councilman Mosby and I can help," Clarke said, saying it would make Hampden safer for visitors from around the area. "This is a valuable resource for all of north Baltimore," she said.
Burrus, who is relatively new as commander, came to the meeting to introduce herself to the merchants, update them on crime in the neighborhood and answer questions.
"I don't take it personally," she said of the criticism. "You can beat me up. You're passionate about you community. I understand."
Crime has been rising noticeably in Hampden in recent months. Burrus' predecessor, Sabrina Tapp-Harper reported to the merchants' group in June that crime was down districtwide, but up in Hampden specifically, especially in property crime categories, as well as aggravated assaults, many of them stemming from domestic disputes.
Merchants at the June meeting said there had been a rash of burglaries, including at the coffee shop Spro, the eatery Luigi's, the bar Zissimo's and the shop Bryan's Finds and Designs.