After 31 shots rang out early on Sunday morning, residents of Eastport were alarmed and looking for answers. The City and the Annapolis Police Department hastily called a meeting which was held at the Eastport Community Center which is located two blocks from the incident on Sunday.
Alderman Ross Arnett and Police Chief Michael Pristoop led the sometimes contentious meeting along with new Housing Director, Melvin Colbert.
Pristoop explained that the City is looking to increase police presence in the at-risk communities and to look into getting additional lighting and security cameras. The City’s law department will once again look into the constitutionality of establishing a banning list.
However, no concrete details were presented for immediate action. As local resident Jessica Pachler pointed out, much of the violence in the area is not from residents, but from out of towners who come to transact drug deals. She called for the City to establish a method for the residents who are living in fear to report illegal activity without fear of retaliation for “snitching.”
Housing Director Melvin Colbert asked for a show of hands as to who was afraid and who was not. Interestingly enough there was a racial divide–most (if not all) of the white hands went up, yet few black ones did. Speaking to Colbert after the meeting, he suggested that the members of the predominantly black community are likely also afraid of being identified as being afraid, so they kept their hands down. Colbert is new to the job and understands that safety is the first priority and had already submitted a request to HUD for additional lighting and security cameras. In the past, we have sought to have a HACA voice on this site and never succeeded. Mr. Colbert was agreeable and we will be having a conversation to see how we can present the concerns of our neighbors who live in HACA properties. Stay tuned.
There is no easy solution, but everyone agreed that it all begins with community involvement. Alderpersons Finlayson, Kirby, and Pindell-Charles all stressed how important it was to be the eyes and ears that the police cannot have at all times. Alderman Arnett suggested that residents attend his budget meetings to voice their concern over what priorities should be addressed in the budget. The Chief explained how he is underfunded and has several officer out with injuries. None of this seemed to appease the borderline hostile crowd. Ward 2 Alderman Fred Paone was also in attendance.
Mayor Pantelides did not attend the meeting and arrived after it was over. He had a prior (presumably more pressing) engagement at the Naval Academy.
In the end, there were no immediate plans of action to battle the increasing violence beyond a greater police presence. We have learned that the police have a suspect(s) for the most recent incident and that they plan to make an arrest shortly. Earlier today, the City and the Housing Authority met and agreed that they needed to work together to resolve this issue which is a change from prior administrations where the City maintained a “hands-off” approach.
It has been said that Annapolis is actually two cities divided by an economic and racial wall. Several years ago, the Capital did a series on it and the differences were stark. Unfortunately, it does not seem that much progress has been made. Just as the Eastport Community Forum was posting to Facebook about the meeting to discuss the gunfire, the residents of Ward One were mostly concerned with the upcoming May Day and their basket displays.
Undoubtedly there will be many more meetings before anything is resolved, or close to resolved. In fact, the Alderpersons in attendance all seemed to want to move the issue forward as swiftly as possible, but spoke of the various committees and boards and organizations that would need to be involved.
NOTE: We were doing a live-stream on our Facebook page, but the battery ran out mid-meeting. Here is what we captured.