We have an identity crisis in Baltimore.

My good colleague over at Dining@Large found that out this week when a reader complained she had located Brasserie Tatin in Homewood instead of Tuscany-Canterbury. They're miffed that a restaurant got moved from one neighborhood to another? Try that with crime!

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Nobody wants crime in their neighborhood and nobody gets more complaints about neighborhood boundaries than the police reporter. My first taste of this came a number of years ago when an unfortunate man met his demise on the most unfortunate of streets -- Southway, which according to the official city map is the boundary between Oakenshawe to the south and Guilford to the north.

I had put the body in Guilford but I confess I didn't check to see on which side of the yellow line the body fell. Callers insisted it was on the south side of the street, putting the murder firmly in Oakenshawe. To this day I fail to see how anyone in Guilford, especially those whose manicured lawns greet Southway, are any safer with the body a few feet and a neighborhood name away. But we ran a correction anyway.

This theme repeats itself almost every week, sometimes more. I've discovered living in Baltimore that these lines are a state of mind. When I returned from an overseas reporting stint and started looking for a house in the city in 2005, I discovered that Highlandtown had been replaced, by the realators anyway, with something called Upper Canton.

I settled on a rowhouse on East Fort Avenue, only to have Jenna Bush become a neighbor. Only she wasn't really a neighbor. All the press put her in Federal Hill, even though she lived well south of the line; had there been a homicide instead of a president's daughter there, the crime would've been South Baltimore.

Here's how confusing it can be: my neighbors call where we live South Baltimore, though the city map calls it smack dab in the middle of Riverside. But the Riverside Neighborhood Association starts on the south side (odd numbered houses) on Fort Avenue. Being on the even side of the street, I'm in the Federal Hill South Community Association. But tell that to anybody on Montgomery Street or further south on William Street and Battery Avenue (where the house prices rise even as the houses get smaller) and you'll get a scornful look, as if we were trying to appropriate their good name and historic trademark. My house is often confused as being in Locust Point, even though I'm a mile west of the marker.

Topping it all off, there's a sign on a building on South Hanover Street, a mile from Federal Hill, that says, "Welcome to the heart of Federal Hill."

The comments about the restaurant has sparked a vibrant debate over at another blog, John E. McIntyre's You Don't Say, where the subject, naturally, returned to crime.

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