Hampden residents are threatening to leave their famous 34th Street Christmas lights off in an effort to get the city's attention after a recent string of violent crimes in the neighborhood.
A 67-year-old man was attacked and beaten unconscious Monday afternoon while picking up trash from the sidewalk at the corner of Falls Road and West 36th Street, police said. Three hours later, a man with a gun held up a Subway restaurant on Falls Road.
Bob Hosier, who claims to have started the Northeast Baltimore holiday tradition more than 60 years ago, said he worries about the safety of the tourists who flock each year to see the hub cap Christmas tree and big red lighted crab.
"I'm not having people come into that neighborhood and be victims of crime," Hosier said.
The Monday afternoon assault victim told police he had just collected some stray pieces of cardboard that looked like a pizza box when he heard a woman say, "Thanks for picking up my trash."
The man, who told police he cleans trash from the block every day, turned around and asked, "Who said that?" When no one replied, he repeated himself.
He was attacked by two people, who punched him until he fell to the ground unconscious, witnesses told police.
The victim was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he got eight staples to close a gash in the back of his head, police said.
The two suspects ran and caught a bus, but police stopped the bus in the 1000 block of W. 36th St., also known as The Avenue, and arrested them.
One of the two, a 17-year-old boy, admitted to beating the man because he said the victim had "disrespected him," police said. He was charged as an adult with first- and second-degree assault, according to state court records. No attorney was listed for him.
The man who robbed the restaurant was arrested nearby, police said.
Crime statistics shared by police Tuesday night showed that burglaries are up 33 percent year-over-year in Hampden. The same data showed that other neighborhood crime, including robberies and aggravated assaults, are down through September 20.
Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books and president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, said he doubts the residents will follow through and cancel one of the city's most beloved holiday displays. But he said residents are frustrated by what they perceive as the city's ignoring their safety concerns because the area isn't as beset by crime as others.
"They're desperate," Ray said. "They're looking for any kind of leverage they can get."