Editorial: Dear House GOP: Thanks so much for the advice on Baltimore car thefts; here's a tip in return

Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Op Eds

A lot of mail likely lands on Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s desk on a daily basis, but there was one recent letter that had us intrigued; it was sent by seven Republican members of the Maryland House of Delegates. As the nonprofit news site Maryland Matters reported, none of the signers actually live in Baltimore, and at least two of whom — Mark N. Fisher and Matt Morgan — live quite far away, in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties respectively, in Southern Maryland. Addressed to Mayor Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, the letter asks the two leaders to do more to decrease auto thefts and carjackings in Maryland’s largest city.

“These crimes lead to the loss of life and property, drive up insurance costs, and have a negative economic impact when tourists and visitors stay away from the city,” the suburbanites helpfully noted. “Residents and visitors to Baltimore City should be safe, and so should their vehicles.”

The Republicans were reacting to Scott’s recent decision to join other U.S. cities in suing manufacturer of Hyundai and Kia vehicles for making them too easy to steal; those makes represent 41% of the 577 stolen vehicles in the city so far this year — a theft rate that’s troublingly double last year’s pace. The automakers themselves appear to acknowledge some culpability, as they agreed to pay out $200 million to about 9 million U.S. car owners last week because of vehicle thefts.

Now, there are at least two ways at looking at such a letter. The least generous is that it’s a cheap political stunt, a way to generate a press release for condemning a placetheir more conservative constituents have long seen as lawless, anyway. It also taps a certain racial animus, as the folks doing the finger-pointing represent predominantly white districts, while Baltimore is predominantly Black.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that these delegates were just trying to be helpful and think City Hall, and perhaps Baltimore’s police officers, were simply unaware of the need to deter carjackings and theft, and what to do about it. Among the group’s considered, if vague, suggestions is to “create awareness” about the problem, “assist people in measures for their protection,” and to adopt “a well-publicized and aggressive law and order approach.” Hey, consider this editorial a first step in getting the word out that carjacking is a crime.


In that spirit, we thought it would be useful to share some thoughts about these suburban counties as well. First, we hope a copy of the letter was sent to the elected leaders of Baltimore County, which is home to three of the letter writers, incidentally. It has seen a whopping 542% increase in juvenile car thefts so far this year compared to last. We’re guessing that’s not going to help property values and tourism in Baltimore County either. Dels. Kathy Szeliga, Robin L. Grammer Jr. and Ryan Nawrocki should understand that a lot of city residents could be uncomfortable visiting the county for this reason.

And speaking of public safety, we’ve been meaning to mention that we’re getting a little worried about the quality of health care in these suburban counties. Many of them lack primary care physicians. A national database that tracks this very statistic notes that while Baltimore City has an 800-to-1 ratio of residents to doctors, Anne Arundel County, where letter writer Del. Brian A. Chisholm serves, is 1,460-to-1. Harford County, home to letter signer Del. Lauren C. Arikan, is 1,850-to-1. And Calvert and St. Mary’s counties are 2,070-to-1 and 2,440-to-1, respectively. All of these figures are well above the statewide average ratio of 1,130-to-1 residents per doctor and even the countrywide average of 1,310 to 1, so please take care of yourselves, delegates.

The inadequate number of primary care physicians in these regions may not evoke outrage like an uptick in car thefts, but it should: Experts say the mounting shortage of doctors nationwide raises the cost and lowers the quality of health care with potentially life-shortening consequences. Of course there are likely actions lawmakers in Annapolis can take to help recruit and retain doctors — if they’re not too busy lecturing Baltimore about problems that are also present in their own backyards.


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