Friday, December 18, 2009

could downtown nightlife be a crime deterrent?

Super Traffic, Ellsworth and Fenton

Residents living near the Majestic 20 at Ellsworth and Fenton are getting nervous about later showings at the movie theatre. Some say it'll bring more crime to their neighborhoods, while others see it as the next step in Downtown Silver Spring's evolution as an arts and entertainment center.

A listing of movie showtimes for tonight reveals no fewer than nineteen movies starting after 10pm. That includes two showings of the new Matt Damon/Morgan Freeman film Invictus, four showings of action movie Avatar, and for some reason, three showings of the new Disney movie Princess and the Frog. The latest movie is a 12:20am showing of Ninja Assassin, which ends around 2am.

Elaine Ellis, who's lived in neighboring Seven Oaks since 1983, is concerned about the kind of people coming to the Majestic's late movies. "You have to wonder if this helpful for a Safe Silver Spring?" she asked on her neighborhood listserv. "Do late shows bring more transients to our neighborhoods? Is there a link between late show transients and crime in our streets?"

Jennifer Nettles, marketing director for the Downtown Silver Spring complex, says Majestic's "been running later movies for a while now" and they haven't seen an increase in crime. "[We] are in constant communication with Majestic about security," she wrote us in an e-mail, noting that the area around Ellsworth and Fenton is patrolled 24 hours a day. "There have been other businesses also open within our property and City Place [Mall] during these same hours," Nettles adds.

Wayna at Expression Live!
Well-managed events, like this evening concert on Ellsworth in September, give people legitimate reasons to come Downtown.

Most local theatres do have late-night showings. The Majestic has more screenings than other Regal theatres including the Rockville Center 13 and Royale 14 in Hyattsville, which have eight and six late shows, respectively. But they're in neighborhoods with few other activities going on after 10pm, meaning there's little reason for the theatre to be open later.

But compared to theatres in areas with more evening activities, the Majestic isn't unusual. The United Artists Bethesda 10 has eight late shows, the Gallery Place 14 in the District has fourteen, and the Rio 18 in Gaithersburg has eighteen - still less than the Majestic, but it's the same proportion of movies relative to the number of screens.

There's no escaping the fact that Silver Spring has become a center for nightlife. There are a growing number of bars and nightclubs open after midnight. There are live performances at the Round House Theater and soon at the Montgomery College Performing Arts Center. And if we're lucky, we'll have a brand-new Fillmore music hall in a couple of years.

The Skater Mob, Ellsworth Drive
Offering a variety of activities could make Ellsworth more comfortable for older patrons.

On the listserv, resident James Ehrman wondered if there was an upside to more late-night activity in Downtown. "Do moviegoers attending these very-late evening showings -- once they exit and are on the street -- tend to be persons whose presence helps dissuade criminal activity," he wrote, "or do they tend to be younger and, possibly, intoxicated elements likelier to cause problems?"

Increasing the number of safe, legal things to do here after dark is the way to make Downtown safer. After all, giving people legitimate reasons to go Downtown mean there are fewer places for crimes to happen unseen. Not to mention that having more "adult" activities in Downtown like the Round House and the Performing Arts Center will draw a more mature crowd that'll set the example for younger people (younger people like me) who go to bars or movies at the Majestic.

Between the fights that broke out on Ellsworth Drive in March and a shooting outside City Place during rush hour last month, it's not surprising that people are nervous about crime in Downtown. But those events were the exception, not the rule. We should continue to encourage more evening activities, because empty streets can be more dangerous than busy ones. The party's already started in Silver Spring, and there's no stopping it now.


Sligo said...

It should be noted that during the unfortunate time I worked at the defunct City Place 10 Theatres, they had midnight shows every weekend, which meant I didn't get to go home until 2AM or so. The fact that they don't have them at the Majestic surprises me.

Akil said...

1 dive bar = a growing number of bars?

have more then 5 in one area then maybe I would say that

Dan Reed said...

Silver Spring has many more than five bars, though not too much more. It's still better off than College Park (if you wanna talk about nightlife = crime), which has only four.

Sligo, you must have some pretty good stories of working at the City Place 10. I mean, I'll defend City Place's right to exist, but I won't deny that there must of been some ridiculous characters hanging around Back In The Day.

Sligo said...

The only thing that annoyed me were the people who wanted a "half and half". This is when you half fill the bag with popcorn, pour a bunch of butter substitute on it, fill up the other half then pour even more butter stuff on it. They are probably all dead now from coronary heart disease.

chippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chippy said...

Akil is talking about Dive Bars, not all bars are Dive Bars. Most Honky Tonks and Roadhouses are Dive Bars but still all bars are not Dive Bars.

Cyndy said...

So would the late night movie goers contribute to an potential increase in crime before, or after, attending the movie? It seems like the area would be safer late at night if there were more people around, especially if all they were doing was going to see a movie. I think there's a lot more danger of crime when there aren't as many people around. But I don't live there, and the more immediate residents probably have a much better feeling for this.

Thomas Hardman said...

> Dan Reed wrote, in part:
> Not to mention that having
> more "adult" activities in
> Downtown like the Round House
> and the Performing Arts Center
> will draw a more mature crowd
> that'll set the example for
> younger people (younger people
> like me) who go to bars or movies
> at the Majestic.

Dan, there's no guarantee that because people are trying to take in "adult culture", inevitably they'll otherwise be a good example. Such people may be in their own way trying to learn to be grownups. Yet if you are really trying to figure out how to get over being a kid and to have some classical adult dignity, you could do worse.

Part of all of this is to find yourself some models to emulate. Don't pick just one, pick several. And don't use the criteria of "people suck up to them" because power and wealth are no sure indicator of who is a good example. Rather look for the quiet dignity that is slow to take offense and is slow to join the jibes and jocularity that for some people will pass for social displays. You don't rise any higher in the estimation of those who really matter, by stepping on the heads of the defenseless. Does the world respect Mother Theresa for kicking a lot of ass, or for spending her life helping the disrespected and downtrodden? A rich asshole is nonetheless an asshole. I strongly advise you to read Proverbs in the Scripture; every now and then I read it myself. That and Ecclesiastes.

I'm not going all religious on you, it's just that much of what is written there is very good advice. The Greeks might have used words like Hubris, Ate, Nemesis. But basically if you want to hang out with the grownups that is an admirable goal, if your desire is to be a grownup. If you want to be a saint, learn to discern the saints and then hang out with them. If you want to be a sinner, hang out with them. Hang out with both if you want a more full view of the world and the people in it. You will see Epic Fail from both saints and sinners and everyone is really a little of both.

If you put a few saints and a few sinners in a street full of late-night movie-goers, the saints and the sinners will both have their eyes on the same crowd but with different ends in mind. But I'm of the opinion that the saints win out in the end because most people would rather go with the good than be victims of the evil, and it's a bold little devil who does serious wrong when the street is full of eyes and the eyes of all are upon the deeds of all.

Bring in the crowds: and on top of that, as they say in a movie that "Sligo" knows well, "send more cops".

Once the crowds get established, and the grownups get respect and can mentor the street, you might have a lot less sinning and less need for saints, and young'uns learning how to walk on the right side of the street.

PS, go see "Avatar". Gonna rock yer world, yo.

Melanie said...

I don't know about the saints and sinners but bring on the people if you want safety. More eye's on the street.

Bauhaus Bob said...

It's not quite as simple as just packing the streets. For an extreme example, if you packed the streets with parolees and probationers, that might not have the effect of reducing street crime.

Look at it this was: criminology gives out a figure that something like 90-percent of all crime is committed by 2-percent of offenders, most of whom have a semi-successful string of minor crimes from which they either profit or suffer no real consequences.

Another 2-percent of people looking hard to find those people might be a counteractant to the 2-percent committing most of the crime. But we're nowhere near the level of police saturation where you've got 2-percent of the population on the street with badges and as a society we'd probably not like that situation if we had it. So at least some people have to step up, if only to be eyes where the badges either can't see or aren't looking.

Also, sometimes you get little blocs of subculture for whom misbehavior is "normative". In DTSS, usually that's kids, carrying on in all-ages streets and venues as if they were in highschool where acting up is the usual thing. So, in particular, you need lots more grownups on the street, acting like grownups. Part of that means that you need adults who don't have kids in tow and who have the time and inclination to help the kids learn that being off HS campus doesn't mean that you're outside of rules.

There's a lot of wiggle room between tolerating misbehavior and calling the cops, and grownups need to work that zone.