"Before we strike out on the Internet, to what extent are we pondering: What am I trying to achieve? What will the consequences of my statements be? At what point will the civic discourse I create become destructive?" wrote Live Baltimore's Steven Gondol, who lives in Southeast Baltimore.

Halvorsen said she never thought her blog post would touch such a nerve. In hindsight, she said, she would have made it more inclusive by addressing fears of residents outside her neighborhood. But she insisted everyone has a right to voice their opinion over policing, safety and city leadership.

"Anyone who sees a spike in crime in their neighborhood should be able to speak up. If I'm not qualified to speak up about issues of crime in my neighborhood, then please tell me who is," she said.

She also took umbrage at Rawlings-Blake's comments, saying the mayor's response served to deflect residents' legitimate crime concerns by making them feel guilty for speaking up. She said she and scores of others on Facebook community groups were "horrified" at the mayor's response.

"It was very disheartening and discouraging," Halvorsen said.

Police statistics released last week showed that it's not just Halvorsen's perception that crime is up. While reported robberies are down 21 percent citywide compared to the same time last year, they are up 28 percent in Southeastern Baltimore. Street robberies are up 55 percent, with gun-related incidents tripling.

Batts has said police are responding to concerns by launching undercover initiatives in Southeast Baltimore and monitoring the routes children take to school and back.

Clippinger, a Democrat, scheduled the Wednesday night meeting at the Breath of God Lutheran Church in Highlandtown after he received several calls and emails about the killing of Kimberly Leto, 51, a popular bartender fatally stabbed Jan. 31 in her home, apparently during a burglary. Two teenagers have been charged in her death.

Clippinger said he hopes the recent debate has helped residents see that crime is an issue for the entire city, not for just one neighborhood. It's a challenge the city needs to be unified to tackle, he said. But he also wants to manage expectations.

"There's no way we can solve all the issues of violent crime in Baltimore in one meeting," he said.

Rawlings-Blake said at the forum: "My desperate hope is that we use this time to come together."

Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Yvonne Wenger and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

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