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As Long as We Remember...

July 12, 2013

Safest City?

Roy Meachum

The place I grew up in, New Orleans, crime rates climb out of sight. I have also lived in Cairo, Manhattan and Berlin, the streets can be dangerous.


But I wind up my chaotic, colorful life in Frederick which this week was announced as the safest place among all U.S. cities. We are part of chain that reaches through Gaithersburg and begins in Bethesda, from which I moved to Frederick. It’s not that I sought a sheltered place.


As readers know, I live on North Market Street. Goethe and I cherish our pre-Revolutionary home. Drunks and opportunists – “Can I have change?” – people this end of town. On my block, most properties are not kept up. There are several “smoke” shops and a “dirty book” store that sells exotic things: videotapes, objects and including racy items especially for the bedrooms.


When the supermarket was bought by the city they offered it to several businesses. The Common Market irked the neighborhood when a couple of clerks said they wouldn’t work on North Market; they were afraid of crime. When Mayor Jennifer Dougherty sold it to developer Douglas Jamal, he at least remodeled the structure; but there it sits empty.


The “safest” survey was paid for by the Farmers Insurance Group that hired Sperling’s Best Places. News-Post reporter Cara Anthony wrote that it was a part of Fast Forward, Inc. Farmers has a very good image internationally. Reading the survey’s website, it listed Frederick’s population as 34,371; actually, it’s 65,239.


Mayor Randy McClement gave credit to the police department; Chief Thomas Ledwell responded appropriately. But this is not about our sidewalks; it includes federal agencies and accredited associations such as the Uniform Crime Reports and National Climatic Center, the unemployment rate and the real estate market’s condition. From Bethesda through Gaithersburg to Patrick Street, livability is bolstered by the number of federal jobs, despite sequestration.


It has little to do with physical safety.


As recently as Monday, I was told a café along Carroll Creek was going out of business because of crimes. When I checked, I found he was right. In the early hours when booze comes into play, men and women act strangely. I was told two murders were linked to the closed café. The name will not be used by me; they’re hoping to find a more suitable location.


Of course, I have always had dogs: the current is named Goethe; an over-muscled Weimaraner that weighs over 100 pounds. The average male of his breed comes in around 80. On the other hand, Pushkin weighed considerably lighter and was less fearsome. I don’t know.


Frederick’s streets have always been “safe,” in the limited strict sense. I’ve always found the police helpful and courteous: that goes back 30 years when I moved here. Even under Baltimore-import Ray Raffensberger’s tenure, individual officers were nice.


Unlike the clerks of Common Market, I feel safely ensconced downtown; of course, my lips have not been kissed by alcohol for three years – except for Sunday Episcopal sacramental wine. I no longer wander taverns and bars looking for whatever?


Goethe and I go to bed early, before the rambunctious spirits come out to play.


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