Charlie Stull does business out of two storefronts in the 1400 block of W. Baltimore St. -- a used-furniture store and a second-hand clothing shop. One day last month, he was standing in the clothing shop when a guy walked in with a bed frame. He asked if Charlie wanted to buy it. Charlie squinted and closely examined the frame, and something apparent became obvious: It was Charlie's bed frame; the guy had lifted it from the store next door, walked about 30 paces, and tried to sell it to him.
Charlie grabbed the guy. His wife called 911. "Do you know it took 37 1/2 minutes for the police to come?" Charlie says. "I held the fella. When the officer finally came, she said, 'Well, what do you want me to do with him?' No one had witnessed [the shoplifting], so she didn't arrest him."
That's one of Charlie Stull's many gripes -- police responsiveness in his neighborhood. He has plenty of gripes about street crimes, loiterers, drug heads, drug dealers and the general decay of West Baltimore Street. (A bunch of row houses were boarded up in Charlie's block the day I was there.) I hear the same complaints all over the city.
An estimated 50,000 drug addicts are in Baltimore. Their habits cost, on average, $100 a day. That's why police say about 85 percent of crimes are drug-related, and most of them involve the kind of crimes that degrade (or finish off) neighborhoods. The film-at-11 drive-by killings burn a whole in city life, but so do (maybe more so) the daily petty crimes -- thefts, purse snatchings, break-ins. That's why the Greater Baltimore Committee is promising to push hard for expanded government-funded drug treatment programs. (Hey, better late than never.) Charlie Stull and everyone else with an interest in saving the city ought to support that effort. People do drugs, people keep committing crimes -- police "sweeps" not withstanding. How many times do we have to go over this?
Nightlights, towering trouble
More suburban growing pains. . . . In Carroll County, they're fighting the lighting of the night. Sykesville Councilman Garth Adams and other South Carroll residents have become increasingly frustrated with the proliferation of unsightly radio and telecommunications towers. At great legal expense, Sykesville has been battling a 200-foot tower proposed for a residential area, and officials just learned that a Baltimore radio station plans to build six 350-foot radio towers on farmland about a 1 1/2 miles from Sykesville. "It is really sad," said Adams. "When we first moved here, we could see trees and open fields. Soon, it will be Christmas every night." . . . Meanwhile, some 3,300,000 more lumens are coming to Baltimore. That's a lot of light -- the equivalent of 3,820 75-watt household light bulbs. All green, too. Starting Wednesday, the Baltimore Arena is going to glow green -- just like Emerald City, get it? -- for the five-day run of "The Wizard of Oz On Ice." Gotta see that
Master of malaprops
Richard Lederer, master collector of malaprops and one of the funniest connoisseurs of the native tongue -- I love tongue, don't you? -- was in town over the weekend, signing books and lecturing. I recommend his "Anguished English" and "Adventures a Young Verbivore." His new one is "The Write Stuff."
Mike Pitarra, a charitable soul who quietly performs acts kindness in the city streets, was getting out of his car near Lexington Market when a homeless man approached and asked for money. Mike wouldn't give him any. "You'd spend it on booze," he said, then offered to buy the panhandler lunch. At this point, of course, a lot of panhandlers would grouse, shake off the offer of a free lunch and walk away. This one didn't. He followed Mike inside the market, to one of the food stands.
"What do you want?" Mike asked. "Cheese steak sub," the man said. Mike was low on cash; he ordered a couple of hot dogs. He offered to spring for a soda, too. "No," the homeless man said, "the sugar hurts my cavities." At the end of the meal, the homeless man asked for money again. Mike said no again. And with that, the homeless man hugged him and thanked him for what he did.
About that squirrel
Theories abound on how that squirrel ended up as road kill way up in the middle of the Bay Bridge last week. Here are three, phoned in to This Just In:
"A truck hit it and the squirrel got caught in the wheel or rigging, and then fell off when the truck got halfway across the bridge."
"The squirrel was killed elsewhere. Some scavenger bird picked it up, then, while flying over the bridge, dropped it."
"The squirrel was thinking of jumping off the bridge, then remembered that the state has security cameras up there to prevent suicides. So it decided to jump in front of an oncoming truck instead."
Dan Rodricks' column appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Observations about life in the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin may be sent to This Just In, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. The telephone number is 332-6166.