Mundane and terrifying

Published 10:55 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How little hope folks in the Lake Kennedy, Cypress Farms, Stratford Terrace and East Suffolk Gardens neighborhoods have of getting their own grocery store anytime soon should be evident to them every time they pass the worn-out and mostly empty White Marsh Plaza Shopping Center, located at the corner of White Marsh Road and Lake Kennedy Drive.

The question of retail development around the intersection has come up during consideration by the Suffolk Planning Commission of a rezoning request that would allow a property across the street from the shopping center to be used for construction of about 10 homes by Habitat for Humanity. Some opponents of the project continue to call for a commercial use like a supermarket for the property.

White Marsh Plaza once housed a Food Lion supermarket and other shops — along with a parking lot large enough to accommodate all that traffic and more. Today, weeds grow in the lot, and dim storefronts attest to a nearly unanimous assessment by potential grocers and retailers that the location is not suitable for their needs.

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Perhaps their reticence has something to do with a problem the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority addressed at a meeting just this week: crime.

Even a cursory review of crime data quickly reveals that some of the Suffolk’s highest crime rates occur within half a mile or less of the area in question. Three murders have been committed in as many years at nearby Cypress Manor apartments, a fact that has finally begun to ring alarm bells for the SRHA, which is considering security doors and cameras and consulting with security experts, according to Housing Authority Board Chairman Branch Lawson.

Why would retailers want to put their employees or their profits in the kind of danger that has become all too common around Cypress Manor in recent years? And what evidence do business owners have that there’s a sense of community responsibility for eradicating the crime problem there? The SRHA itself has been slow to act on the problem and has offered suggestions that are purely reactive, instead of proactive, to solve it.

The vast majority of law-abiding citizens in these neighborhoods are being held hostage by people who consider the term “thug” to be a compliment, people without the imagination to dream of a life that rises above, rather than one that tears down. And so they tear apart their community, and innocent people suffer in ways both mundane and terrifying.