Baltimore's violent crime problem has grown so serious that a group of private businesses is banding together to hire a private security firm to help make their customers feel safe as they walk in the door.
According to WJZ-TV, local retailers believe that the city's crime problem is contributing to a city-wide drop in retail shopping, even in low crime areas.
Hank Shofer, of Shofer's furniture, has hired private security for the first time in the store's 104-year history. As Shofer explained, "This public perception of, it’s not safe, is just not true... we don't want it to ruin our business down here."
Shofer's is one of several businesses in the Federal Hill area who have banded together to buy private security in order to combat the appearance that it isn't safe to shop in their stores. The companies have banded together to form a nonprofit, called Federal Hill Main Street, which will provide private security patrols to bars and stores in the area. Retailers in Federal Hill aren't the first companies in Baltimore to have this idea: a group of businesses in the Fell's Point area of Baltimore paid to have private security to provide muscle during the holiday season in order to help shoppers feel safe.
According to WJZ, the private security is expected to cost the retailers in excess of $200,000 per year.
Baltimore's city government has struggled to contain the city's murder rate, which is now the second highest in the country, behind only St. Louis. The city has sponsored a number of high-profile "cease fire weekends" designed to help reduce weekend homicides, with mixed results.
Baltimore's mayor, Catherine Pugh, supported the businesses' decision to hire private security, saying, "As they begin to look at how they secure their neighborhoods and communities, my goal is to have them all working with the police department, so we can all be on the same page."