Johns Hopkins and its neighbors launch public safety effort
The latest initiative in Johns Hopkins' ongoing $10 million commitment to neighborhoods surrounding the university's Homewood campus is now arriving: funding to support a collaborative effort for added police manpower and TV-camera monitoring along North Charles Street between North Avenue and 28th Street.
The public safety effort is one more sign of the understanding that the life of the university is intimately tied to the health of the communities around it.
This round of investment in the Homewood Community Partners Initiative—about $78,000 from Johns Hopkins and $63,000 from the Charles Village Community Benefits District—will be used to hire off-duty city police officers to patrol the area based on a data-driven strategy targeting the most problematic times and locations, and a security officer to monitor previously undermanned neighborhood cameras in Baltimore's CitiWatch camera center. This initial funding is for a nine-month project.
To date, says Andrew Frank, special adviser to Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels on economic development issues, the university has invested roughly $2.6 million of the $10 million, most of it on neighborhood schools.
"There's no question, this area has a lot of potential," says David Hill, executive director of the CVCBD, "and the new money gives us a significant boost."
"We've got a great opportunity here to re-energize the area," says Joe McNeely, executive director of the Central Baltimore Partnership.
The overall effort, Frank says, "involves everything from a robust program to remove trash and graffiti to animating storefronts to expanded security." The ultimate goal is to turn this area of Charles Street, with its retail businesses and dining establishments, into a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use corridor that's welcoming to both residents and visitors.
The university announced the Homewood Community Partners Initiative and its five-year financial commitment two years ago, following what Frank tallied as "more than a hundred meetings" between Johns Hopkins officials and community residents. The $60 million HCPI is being spread over five categories: public safety and quality of life, public education, housing, commercial development, and economic inclusion (local purchasing, contracting, and hiring).
Along with optimism over the new funding, though, comes a sober assessment of some tough problems, particularly as Charles and St. Paul streets approach North Avenue. Above 25th Street, Charles Street's venerable row houses have maintained their long-term charm and stability. Directly below that, small businesses dot the corridor. But, approaching North Avenue, says Hill, "we've got crime problems that have to be addressed."
Initially, says Hill, the new funding means "we'll increase the number of patrol officers on the beat" from early evening until early the following morning, the time period when most crimes occur. But the money also will help analyze which particular times—and which nights—are most troublesome, along with other patterns that can help find long-term solutions to improving safety and security. Officers will coordinate their efforts with Johns Hopkins' Homewood Security and the Police Department's Northern District, as well as neighborhood associations adjacent to the focus area.
Additionally, 10 CVCBD neighborhood crime cameras have been added to the existing 40 CityWatch cameras, and CVCBD will hire a city police officer specifically to monitor those cameras.
"Our cameras haven't been getting as much attention as we'd like. This new officer will be dedicated strictly to watching our particular area," Hill says. "Also, the CVCBD recently hired Anthony Brown, a retired major in the Baltimore Police Department, to oversee the entire project. One of Mr. Brown's real strengths is in operations," he says. "He's going to look at crime patterns on an almost-daily basis to determine how many officers to deploy at which given times."
"This area," says Frank, has untapped potential, "especially with the restoration of the Centre and Parkway theaters on North Avenue," where Hopkins and the Maryland Institute College of Art will house their collaborative film programs in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. "We want to connect strength to strength."
"There's a lot of development going on in the area," says Hill, "and public safety is a key to it all."
"We're building a lot of momentum," McNeely adds, "but so much of it depends on people's sense of security. And that's the newest piece."