Baltimore officials will demolish 6 buildings and relocate more than 120 families living in Gilmor Homes, a public housing project that the mayor says is a hotbed for criminal activity. Executive Producer Eddie Conway speaks with Gilmor residents about the city’s plan, which he says fails to address the root causes of the problem
EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore. Right now, I’m in Gilmore Homes, the project area where Freddie Gray was beaten. The area in which the city government spends 17 million dollars to patrol and police. It’s the area in which has the highest incarceration rate. It’s the area that’s also a very high poverty rate and it’s a food desert.
The city government have decided to destroy six of the buildings in this area. They’re going to displace 120 families and destroy 132 units. In a statement made by housing authority, Baltimore City Executive Director, the city claims, “At a time when our city has a vested interest to keep families and the neighborhoods they live in safe and secure, our focus is on facilitating environments that support safety and security as well as improving the housing and quality of life for HABC residents.”
So, I’m down here to find out what the people in this community feel about that.
SPEAKER: The way I feel about it, I can’t say if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but it’s going to inconvenience people. You know, because they don’t know where they’re going to go at, for one. Especially if you’ve been living around here for some years. It’s not going to stop anything. You know, what’s going on around us, it’s going to go on, whether they tear them down or not. But if you’re just going to do the high rises, why not do all of them and fix them all up the way they’re supposed to be fixed up, where people can live comfortable in their house?
SPEAKER: I mean, there’s pros and cons to living in this neighborhood. Whereas though some people have grew up here their whole life. So, this is their life and this is all they know. For others, I mean, it’s a good thing because it is a lot of violence and crime going on around here, such as drugs, guns, to the point where you can’t even really walk to the store without being scared. I wouldn’t say scared, but just, you gotta be a little fearful.
SPEAKER: I think they’re going to move to a better place, hopefully because there’s no …
EDDIE CONWAY: You think so?
SPEAKER: Yeah, there’s no use to moving them out of here to move them back to the same thing.
SPEAKER: I think there should be a new development, once they tear it down.
EDDIE CONWAY: Do you think that they are going to put buildings up here that’s going to be a better?
SPEAKER: I’m hoping so. I’m hoping so. But I think so because they, look at Lexington Terrace?
EDDIE CONWAY: What happened at Lexington Terrace? I thought they just tore that down?
SPEAKER: Yes, and that’s a beautiful community.
EDDIE CONWAY: Oh you mean, they put new buildings down there?
SPEAKER: Not high rises.
EDDIE CONWAY: Low rise.
SPEAKER: But low rises.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay.
SPEAKER: It’s beautiful inside and out.
SPEAKER: I know where I’m going. I can take care of me.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay.
SPEAKER: It’s the rest of these kids around here I’m worried about, but I already got me where I’m going to go.
EDDIE CONWAY: So, you got another place to go when you leave here?
SPEAKER: I’m always have another place to go.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay.
SPEAKER: You know, but it’s the other people around here, the ones not doing anything that’s caught up in this.
SPEAKER: I say, well I have heard nothing about it. You understand?
EDDIE CONWAY: They never came and told anybody?
SPEAKER: They never said anything, but from my understanding …
EDDIE CONWAY: It just showed up in the news.
SPEAKER: It’s just for the buildings, not the row houses.
EDDIE CONWAY: It’s the tall buildings and not the rows.
SPEAKER: It’s just the tall buildings, from my understanding. So, I don’t really, you know, from my standpoint, as long as it’s not affecting me, as long as it’s going to be done and make it better for the children, because it’s all about the kids. You can’t see. There’s no lights. You understand? It’s a whole lot that needs to be done, but they need to inform us ahead of time.
EDDIE CONWAY: For the most part, people that’s not involved in the street life, they are left alone anyway, aren’t they?
SPEAKER: Yes, we are left alone.
EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah, because I see you. You can walk through here. I walk through here. Other people walk through here but if you’re in that life, then you might be concerned.
SPEAKER: Yeah, you might be concerned. You know, when you’re not in that life, really there’s, you know, I feel like this. We don’t have no say-so. No matter how much we go over to the office and complain, we have no say-so.
EDDIE CONWAY: The city claims that it’s shutting down these buildings because of crime and drugs, but if it’s displacing people that they think are involved in crime and drugs to other areas of the community, that’s going to create conflicts in other areas. It’s just moving the problem around and it’s not addressing the problem and the only way to reasonably address the problem of this kind of activity is to give people jobs and to give them opportunities to earn living in some other kind of way.
The Right Investment Report, a study by prisonpolicy.org, shows that 17 million dollars is spent incarcerating 458 people in the Sandtown-Winchester area. With that same 17 million dollars, 3,389 people can receive employment training or 16,946 students can receive GED courses, or over 13,000 families can receive 1,200 dollars per month in housing aid. The study is an example of how proven preventative measures can make a huge impact in communities under pressure. It also illustrates how police tactics, trainings and methodology, when it comes to policing communities of color and eliminating crime are out of touch with the proven solution. Thanks for joining The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway with Cameron Granadino and Will Arenas.