BALTIMORE — Following a violent weekend that saw three people shot and several fights break out, more than three dozen Fells Point business owners are threatening to withhold their city taxes and permit fees unless the city makes significant changes.
Former Maryland Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah spearheaded a letter to city leaders, listing out a couple demands.
The first demand is that the city allow its police to enforce the illegal sale of alcohol and drug sales in the area, as well as traffic and parking laws.
"Many of us have obtained expensive liquor licenses and are subject to routine code inspection," the owners wrote in the letter. "We are carefully regulated and pay taxes on the proceeds of our liquor and alcohol sales. Yet, there are individual vendors in Fells Point illegally selling large volumes of alcohol, marijuana, and a range of other illicit substances directly in front of our establishments with no consequences or penalties."
Second, the group wants the trash picked up on time.
"The trash that piles up every week drifts into the Inner Harbor and hurts the environment, attracts rodents and fosters disease, and stinks up the streets and damages the beauty of our wonderful waterfront community. Every neighborhood, residential and commercial, is entitled to regular and reliable trash removal," the letter states.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced her office would no longer prosecute crimes such as open container violations, public urination, defecation, prostitution, and low level drug possession offenses. Not to mention the wiping out 1,500 active arrest warrants.
As result, the group claims those crimes are being committed right in front of officers eyes without any action being taken.
While they admit those crimes are not as serious as homicides, shootings, and carjackings, the group says petty offenses can lead to violence.
For example, Mayor Brandon Scott said Monday that police were within feet of where a weekend shooting took place on Thames Street.
Leading up to that, multiple videos circulated on social media of different fights breaking out nearby.
Mosby's new policies have received mixed reviews.
Civil rights advocates have applauded her office while some leaders like Governor Larry Hogan have been highly critical.
On Monday, before the owners released their letter, Mosby defended her stance.
"Having the police respond to the Harbor for an open container makes absolutely no sense when we have an increase in non-fatal shootings and homicides," said Mosby. "It’s about resource allocation. You can’t have it both ways. We want to deploy our officers in a way that makes sense for trying to change the trajectory of violence in our city."
The group says if their demands are not met, they will hold their funds in an escrow account, and not release them until they are.
"We have reached our breaking point. Our elected leaders have closed their eyes and ears and turned their backs on our community for long enough. We are fed up and frustrated, and we now realize that nothing will change unless we demand action."
So far no arrests have been made in relation to the shootings over the weekend.
As of Tuesday morning, the city has recorded 143 homicides and 288 non-fatal shootings in 2021.