There is no good way to evaluate an area from afar; you really need to get the feel of an area by spending time there. CHECK OUT THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS! Seriously. This will answer many of your questions about safety, neighborhood people, the condition of the infrastructure that the tax portion of your mortgage payment must support. Also, talk to police and fire fighters and EMT's. They will tell you the truth. There are some professionals that cannot lawfully give you the real scoop, but public safety personnel are not constrained this way. There are some o.k. areas of Baltimore City, but you must be very, very careful. I'd take the same care with evaluating the suburbs as well.