Merchants in the older section of Baltimore's Lexington Market are fuming over repeated thefts of meats, produce, candy and other goods.
The merchants, most of whom are Korean, also complained yesterday that management at the market is doing little to counter the thefts, which some weeks amount to hundreds of dollars of merchandise.
They say the thefts occur at night, after the market is closed. Security guards are on duty through the night and janitors working there, too.
"How could this happen every night?" asked Henry Shim, 50, who runs H&K Meats. "We don't know what to do."
Shim said $350 worth of meats were stolen from him in the last week.
The market's older section, called Lexington Market West, is at 500 W. Lexington St. Several merchants elsewhere in the market said they were not experiencing thefts.
But in the older section, Rena Joe, who operates Golden Bakery with her husband, Young, said six large boxes of chocolate drops were stolen from her storage room in the last two days. Each box is valued at $40, she said.
Some storage rooms have locking doors, but the cinder-block rooms have no ceilings, so someone could easily climb inside.
Other items merchants said were stolen from them in the past year include 50-pound bags of onions, cases of tangerines, a case of pancake syrup, ceramic bowls and candy. Sometimes, thieves break into glass display cases or locked offices, the merchants said.
Young Sun Rhyne, who operates Quality Poultry, claimed that management was unsympathetic.
"They don't even listen to our complaints," she said.
Leonard Jaslow, manager of Lexington Market, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment on the charges by the merchants.
When the market is closed, many merchants leave meats, produce and other items in display cases or out in the open. "We trust them," Rhyne said, "but the next morning . . . it's gone."
Merchants said most of the thefts are minor, but they add up to a lot.
Police in the Central District, where Lexington Market is, said they are aware of two reported thefts in recent days.
"I don't see any real rash of it," said Officer Bill Miller, who said he helps compile crime reports. "Every once in a while they have a problem."
Lexington Market has its own operating authority separate from the six municipal markets.
Apparently, the thefts have not been occurring at the other markets.
"At this point, it's not a problem for us," said Norita Keener, assistant director for the city markets.
"You have to understand Lexington Market is quite large," Keener said. "Our markets are much smaller." The smaller sizes allow for tighter security, she said.
Within the last two weeks, Keener said, there was an isolated theft of "two or three pieces of produce" at the Belair Market at the Old Town Mall.
"It wasn't a bushel or anything."
The other five city markets are: Broadway Market on South Broadway in Fells Point; Hollins Market on Hollins Street; Northeast Market on East Monument Street; Lafayette Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Cross Street Market on East Cross Street.