An opinion article Connor Meek wrote for The Baltimore Sun about getting mugged and then discovering that the nearby police station was closed has raised questions about accessibility at police stations across the city.
On June 15th I was mugged for the first time in my life, for a bicycle with about zero resale value and shoddy brakes. I was accosted by a group of about 15 youths on the Gwynns Falls Trail and escaped unscathed, minus a bicycle. Traumatic, yes. But it could have been worse.
Little did I know that it was only the beginning of my ordeal. I quickly dialed 9-1-1 and spent an unacceptable amount of time on hold, before being connected with a dispatcher who gets a D- for her knowledge of the city's geography. I walked north along the trail in the direction of the Southwestern District police station.
I arrived in moments and knocked on the door, and a brash young officer opened it, and while chomping obnoxiously on a wad of gum and barring my entrance with his arm, he curtly informed me that the police station was closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and was not the correct place to report a crime or come for assistance. I stood there for a moment trying to formulate a response to the only circumstance I hadn't prepared for: The police station was closed. Closed. The police station.
It seemed ridiculous. I wish they had informed me of the unusual schedule before I bought a home in the neighborhood. I would have known that the illegal and dangerous parking habits and high-speed traffic of police cars through the neighborhood didn't come with the assumed benefits: security and peace-of-mind.
The officer asked if I had called 9-1-1, and then informed me that I needed to wait at the location from which I called — a rapidly darkening bike trail behind a golf course, where I was just assaulted (coordinates the dispatcher could not possibly have described to officers correctly).
Eventually, after making it clear that I wasn't going anywhere and repeatedly fielding the question, "OK, but you're telling me that you need me to go and get an officer because you need to report a crime?" he relented. Not wanting to deal with him further, I didn't point out that he was, in fact, a police officer.
Finally, I was seated with a detective, and I told him my tale. There was only one part of the story that he seemed particularly interested in: the location. The exact location. The fact that I was on a one-mile strip of the bike trail wasn't enough. He needed to know exactly how close I was to the golf course. After a few more questions, he excused himself.
He returned shortly with a photo lineup of six individuals.
Just kidding. He said, "If this crime took place as close to the golf course as you claim, it actually falls out of our jurisdiction, and the report can only be taken at the Southern District Station."
We were seated less than a mile from the crime scene. The Southern District Station was over four miles away. But I agreed, and was escorted to the Southern District by an officer who held his iPhone in his right hand for the entire drive, seemingly getting directions. We arrived and — lo and behold! —the Southern District Station was closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The officer mentioned that this was because people "want to come in here and shoot us up."
It's funny, I have the same fear, mostly between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. And I don't get paid a dime. In fact I pay them to deal with it.
Aside from WWIII or nuclear attack, there is no excuse for an urban police station to be closed for 12 hours a day. I felt violated and disrespected, and I'm a young white male who had his bike taken from him. I can't imagine walking up to that door as a black female rape victim, or a recent immigrant, or a domestic abuse survivor and having Bazooka Joe rudely inform me that he wasn't really interested in taking visitors at this time.
Either open your doors or open those job opportunities for officers capable of respecting the citizens of Baltimore and recovering the dignity of an institution that has proven itself to be nothing more than a joke.