Two holdups last night at Baltimore food markets by men toting shotguns have left police wondering whether more than one band of men is responsible for a recent spate of robberies.
Since the fall, at least 19 supermarkets and fast-food restaurants have been held up at gunpoint. Police arrested six people Friday and charged two of them in connection with two of the robberies, but the arrests did not prevent two more robberies last night.
"We just don't know the answer," said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman. "Obviously, we've got a bunch of people locked up."
Five men armed with two sawed-off shotguns, one semiautomatic handgun and one large revolver held up Giant Food in the 5900 block of Reisterstown Road, taking an undetermined amount of cash, Mr. Hill said. The men, wearing dark clothes and ski masks, entered the store about 7 p.m.
No shots were fired during the robbery, and no one was hurt.
Two hours earlier, four men in their 20s -- two brandishing semiautomatic handguns and another a shotgun -- entered the Valu Food Market in the Frankford Plaza Shopping Center at Frankford Avenue and Belair Road and held several employees and about 50 customers at bay, Mr. Hill said.
One of the robbers, waving a handgun, barged into the manager's office and ordered the manager to open the safe, Mr. Hill said.
The gunman emptied the safe and took money from a cash register drawer and a cabinet in the office, police said. Police said they did not know how much money was taken.
As the manager took money from the safe, the holdup man apparently became impatient and struck him on the head, causing the gun to fire. No one was injured.
The other robbers emptied a cash register drawer.
The robbers escaped in a late model four-door white Chrysler, last seen headed north on Plainfield Avenue, police said.
"They were in and out of here in about 90 seconds," said Louis Denrich, president of Valu Food markets.
He said Valu Food markets had been robbed before in their 25 years of business "but nothing like this, nothing this violent."
"They came in here from a lot of different directions, shook everybody up and ran out," he said.
Security will be tightened at some of the 12 stores, located in Baltimore and five area counties, he said.
"We had part-time security at this store. The security man left just a half-hour prior to the robbery. We will now make sure that there is full-time security here," Mr. Denrich said.