It's about time. Hurrah for the Baltimore City Police Department's pawn shop squad as a Baltimore City pawnbroker.
I applaud the actions taken against the "Antique Row" dealers who think they are above the law. In Baltimore City, any business that buys second-hand merchandise from the public must report daily not only what it has purchased but also the name of whom it has done business with, including ID.
I was very upset when I read the June 18 Sun article about some of the dealers. When Allan T. Williams of Thayne's antiques said, "They're calling us thieves. That's ridiculous. We've been here 30 years. We're not hock shops."
Well, I have been in the pawn shop business in Baltimore City for 20 years and there have been fewer pawnbrokers charged with felony theft in those 20 years than antique dealers in this one police action.
Pawn shops have reported daily to the Baltimore City Police Department's pawn shop squad. We spent countless hours and much funds complying with not only the city laws but also the state law. The larger stores have employees that do nothing else but record keeping.
Having traveled extensively throughout Central America and lived in Honduras in the 1980s and early '90s, I found your series misleading. Overall, your articles portray Hondurans as brutal people who will do anything to make money.
I found Hondurans to be warm and friendly. However, they do not tolerate Communists, Marxists-Leninists or any other left-wing organization that hatches out of the mud.
Remember, on Honduras' western frontier lies El Salvador, where insurgents were supplied arms and ideology by Cuba, and occasionally weapons from Communist Vietnam.
And on Honduras' southern border, the Sandinistas from Nicaragua, who murdered, robbed and tortured for the "People's Revolution," were supported by the same factions.
Leftists shot, maimed and pillaged innocent people from Salvador to Guatemala to Nicaragua. All this while Honduras, geographically in the middle, struggled to become a democracy. She continues to improve, month by month, year by year.
The June 18 column by Barry Rascovar outlined many reasons why Baltimore City voters should hope that William Donald Schaefer will become a candidate for mayor.
It is the city's only chance for salvation in the next four years. Leadership is what is needed to make Baltimore what it once was under a very successful Schaefer administration. It can happen again.
Neither Mayor Kurt Schmoke or Council President Mary Pat Clarke has the ability to lead the city into a new renaissance that a Schaefer administration would do.
Baltimore is headed in the same disgraceful direction as Washington.
The crime issue alone is proof of the ineffectiveness of the Schmoke-Clarke efforts to run city government.
Try New York
Stephanie R. Darr said in her letter of June 24, "Not Fighting Crime," that she drove from Alexandria, Va., to watch a game at Camden Yards. She parked her car on a side street and came back to find a window smashed and several items stolen.
The police officer who responded apparently did not seem excited enough about the incident for her liking. She said she would take the cost of her robbery into consideration before visiting Baltimore again.
Ms. Darr is entering an urban environment when she comes to downtown Baltimore. Think about where she is. Arrive early enough and pay the fee to park in the parking lot. Don't park on a side street. Don't leave valuable things in the car. It encourages theft. Don't expect a police officer to be a miracle worker or the colloquial cop of your dreams at the scene of a preventable crime.
It is amazing that people come into a large city to enjoy the things a city has to offer, leave themselves wide open to crime, get taken and then go back home blaming the city for being a city and the police for being police. If you think this is bad, try New York.
No wonder the officer was not enthusiastic. He was probably at the end of a long shift where he had dealt with a hundred crimes, each a lot more significant than some ranting fool with out-of-state tags who parked down some secluded street near the stadium only to find her clearly visible CD player stolen.
She's lucky they didn't steal the car.
Improving Old Town Mall Shopping District
I am writing as an attorney representing many of the merchants in Belair Market, in connection with negotiations over improvements to the Belair Market/Old Town Mall shopping district.
Your June 9 article on the city's redevelopment plans for the Old Town/Gay Street Mall highlighted perceived disagreements between the interested parties.
It failed, however, to emphasize the most compelling fact, which is that all area merchants and residents recognize that the Old Town Mall urgently needs investment from the city and from area merchants.
Belair Market, consisting of two sheds located at the focal point of Old Town Mall, suffered from indifferent management until recently. When Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke improved management for all the city-owned neighborhood markets, no one was happier than the merchants in Belair Market.
What the city gave with one hand, however, it appeared to the Belair Market merchants to be taking away with the other, since the Old Town redevelopment plan contemplated demolishing one of the two market buildings and subjecting the mall to up to two years of demolition and construction disruption.
The plan for replacement of the shed with a grocery store was particularly irksome, since the building to be demolished already contained, of all things, a grocery store.
The original redevelopment plan has three problems. First, by contemplating a large-scale redevelopment that would persist over as much as two years, it was inappropriately disruptive and long-term, given the immediate needs of a fragile commercial district.
Second, it contemplated closing and replacing existing businesses -- again, in a fragile commercial district with a great shortage of merchants -- rather than preserving and adding to the existing commercial base.
Third, the plan was formulated without approaching the existing grocery store operator about upgrading or expanding.
While most participants at the recent Planning Commission hearing where the now-delayed plan was approved spoke with passion, the passion was born of the great need for improvement. No one was passionately for this plan, and passionately against all others.
If I may venture one criticism of the merchants located outside the Belair Market, it was that they sought, in their panic, to throw some of their fellow passengers overboard, rather than recognizing them as allies and assets.
Mayor Schmoke has requested that the interested parties identify a common ground for proceeding with redevelopment. The immediate next step, more useful than a debate over a long-term redevelopment scheme, is to identify improvements that can be made relatively inexpensively and quickly.
These include, in my opinion, a police kiosk similar to that installed near Lexington Market, spring cleaning inside Belair Market and the like.
All stakeholders, the community, the city, the market merchants and the merchants along the mall, are at work on this process.