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    Issue 1: Security Square Mall

    Problem: Abandoned malls increase crime statistics

    Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio, opened in 1975 as the premier shopping destination for the surrounding community. But as customer traffic started to slow more than a decade ago, several department stores abandoned their leases, and the mall began to fail. It lost its last store tenant in 2013. Over that period, the mall was the scene of several crimes. A homeless man was sentenced to a year in prison for living inside a vacant store. Another man was electrocuted trying to steal copper wire from the mall, and the body of a likely murder victim was found behind the shopping center. The mall was still vacant last year, and it remained a safety concern — the mayor of Akron instructed residents in July to “stay clear of the area.” The city began the process of demolishing the rotting shopping center in late October.

    Like Rolling Acres, shopping malls across the country are dying, and in some cases, leaving jobless communities and rotting buildings that are hotbeds for crime in their wake. As stores are boarded up one by one, shopper traffic slows and crime in the area tends to spike. Malls are big contributors to city and state taxes, jobs, and the local economy. Once they close, they are a blight on the community for a very long time.

    Kevin Zent, 59, of Memphis, Tennessee, said that crime is a huge problem at malls near his home and that he no longer shops at them as a result. “Cars are keyed randomly in mall parking lots, and there is not enough security to provide the level of safety a family wants while they are at the mall,” he told Business Insider.

    There were 890 reported crime incidents at one Memphis-area mall between January 1, 2012, and July 15, 2015, according to an investigation last summer by the local NBC affiliate WMC Action News.

    Another example, Regency Mall in Augusta, Georgia, closed in 2002. Fifteen years later, most of the properties along Gordon Highway where it’s located are also vacant, according to WJBF. This has made it difficult to persuade developers to consider renovating the mall.

    One key factor common to retail establishments, whether MMDs or restaurants, is that they generate foot traffic. And with foot traffic comes informal surveillance. As Jane Jacobs described in her groundbreaking 1961 work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, people provide a natural form of incidental surveillance that can increase public safety. This idea, which Jacobs called “eyes upon the street,” has proven enormously influential, and is now a cornerstone of modern urban planning. The closure of a business in a low-walk-score area should have a proportionally large impact on total foot traffic. If our results were driven by eyes upon the street, we should find that, all else equal, crime is negatively related to walk scores. A quick, back-of-the-envelope cost calculation using our results and crime costs from a 2010 study suggests that an open retail business provides over $30,000 a year in social benefit just in terms of larcenies prevented. Retail businesses draw customers, and in doing so, lower crime.

    Solution: Bring in YMCA, Rec Centers, Sports Fields

    Successful transformation of anchor spaces (large department stores) involve finding new tenants able to pay higher rents, like restaurants or apartment complexes. The likelihood of this outcome is much higher in affluent urban areas. Shazia seeks to lobby the Maryland General Assembly for the conversion of this space into mixed-use (live-work-play community) and to draw interest and investments from corporations including YMCA, and other local recreation center administrators to build spaces for the community such as sports fields and gathering spaces for the community.

    Issue 2: Circular Buses

    Problem: Lots of taxes have been collected in Baltimore 44 but are being used in Dundalk

    Solution: Bring in circular buses

    Circular buses are a way to promote equity and break down barriers to opportunity. If it’s a (cheap) initiative that dramatically increases transit ridership, that’s a good investment. Free transit is one of the ideas pushed by progressives who say if you take away the cost, more people will ride transit and hopefully reduce car congestion and benefit the environment. Chapel Hill, North Carolina may be the best parallel to this situation. Its local buses are free, but the regional Triangle Transit buses cost money to get to nearby Durham and Raleigh.

    Baltimore County Transit services provide opportunities for residents and visitors to access work, retail, tourism and health service opportunities. The County Loop provides a fleet of 12, free circulator shuttles that traverse two routes within the central business district of Towson, Maryland. The Loop provides service to anyone wishing to traverse the County–residents, employees, students, tourists, etc. The Loop intends to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas pollution by offering a convenient, reliable and eco-friendly form of public transportation. Why is the same solution not being applied to more depressed counties in Maryland such as Catonsville and District 44?

    Issue 3: Human Trafficking

    Problem: Need more police presence

    Baltimore, Maryland is a hotspot for human trafficking, according to experts. The confluence of highways, including the I-95 corridor that connects Baltimore to other nearby cities like Washington, DC and New York City, combined with the proximity to several major airports, a plethora of hotels and casinos, and extreme poverty beside extreme wealth, has created the perfect conditions for the trafficking industry to thrive. As a result of this and its proximity to other large East Coast cities, Baltimore has one of the highest rates of human trafficking cases in the country. According to local law enforcement, people engaged in commercial sex work in Baltimore often make more money than those in other cities, and that fact is what motivates traffickers from other parts of the country to flock to Maryland.

    “I think the I-95 highway plays a huge role in it. We also have an airport with really inexpensive flights. We’re a hub for those airlines, and that certainly contributes to it,” said Amanda Rodriguez, the executive director of Turnaround Inc, a Baltimore-based organisation that provides services to victims of human trafficking.

    Rodriguez is a lawyer who spent years prosecuting human trafficking cases in the Baltimore area before she began working for Turnaround. “I think trafficking is also related to socioeconomics in Maryland,” she said. “We have a lot of poverty, and it’s right next door to a lot of wealth, so you end up with people who can buy sex and people who are desperate. Poverty, in general, is a vulnerability that we need to address if we’re going to address trafficking.”

    Human trafficking is one of the top priorities for human services investigations across the country, Eisert said. But Baltimore has its work cut out for it. Some cities are destinations for human traffickers, and some are sources of trafficking victims, but Baltimore is both.

    Thirty-four states, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota and Tennessee, have passed safe harbour laws.

    According to Turnaround’s Rodriguez, politically conservative states sometimes have an easier time passing safe harbour laws because legislators tend to view human trafficking as a humanitarian issue. Since Maryland is a majority Democratic state with a large Republican population, policy issues can get bogged down in discussions about the approach.

    “If you had asked me even five years ago, I would have said that Maryland is doing really well, especially policy-wise,” Rodriguez said. “Maryland was number two in the nation introducing vacatur laws related to trafficking. But we’re seeing other states moving forward, and Maryland doesn’t seem to be doing that.”

    Issue 4: Local School Funding

    Problem: Need better training for teachers, schools aren’t magnet anymore (trend analysis over time) Parents who want good schools have to move to hoco which drives out the tax base which further exacerbates the issue; capital flight impacts local business revenue, crime rates increase, let’s rehabilitate offenders locally and without the prison system

    What is the avg spend in other counties vs Baltimore 44?

    Reduced traffic by less trans-zip code busing and parents driving kids to school

    On Thursday, April 15, 2021, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski submitted a $4.2 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 but few of those resources are earmarked for allocation in Catonsville and District 44.