Giving what they described as a "progress report" in their efforts to stop the so-called shotgun gang and its imitators, the police said yesterday that they have arrested 13 men during the past month in connection with the series of armed robberies that has plagued the metropolitan area.
The police believe that one person may be the mastermind behind the robberies, but they don't believe that person to be among those who have been caught so far.
"We don't know if we have put a major dent in the organization or not," said Dennis S. Hill, a Baltimore police spokesman. "This is a progress report to let the people know that there are at least 12 people who are locked up who are not going to commit any more robberies."
The announcement comes during seven-day lull in which no robberies matching the earlier ones have been reported in Baltimore, Baltimore County or Anne Arundel County.
Still, authorities were reluctant to claim complete success in ending the epidemic of robberies, which has shaken people at fast-food restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores and forced businesses and shoppers alike to change their habits.
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden are to meet this morning at the Holiday Inn in Pikesville -- where an employee was seriously wounded during an armed robbery Feb. 28 -- to make a plea for the public's help in catching the remaining suspects.
Mayor Schmoke has already expressed fear that the spate of armed robberies as well as the upturn in the murder rate had created the "perception that [Baltimore] is an unsafe place not only to live but to do business and for tourism."
Since October, the police say, there have been 73 robberies that fit the type attributed to the shotgun gang and its imitators: a show of weapons, usually involving a sawed-off shotgun and semiautomatic handguns; swift movement by a gang of three or more; and intimidation -- sometimes physically -- of those in the establishment being robbed.
Forty-five of the robberies have been in the city, 23 have been in Baltimore County and five have been in Anne Arundel County.
Of the 13 suspects in custody, 10 were arrested by Baltimore police and three by Baltimore County police. All 13 were arrested in the course of holdups, soon after holdups or during a drug raid. Once the men were in custody, Mr. Hill said, investigators showed mug shots of the arrested men to victims of the other robberies. In this way, they linked several of the suspects to previous holdups.
One of the arrested men, Tony Maurice Bedford, also known as Sadiyq Abdullah Muhammed, has been charged in 12 of the robberies. He was arrested Saturday in Newport News, Va., and extradited to Baltimore County on Monday. Two other suspects each have been charged in five of the robberies.
A number of the suspects knew one another and have been charged with the same robberies, the police said. As few as two and as many as five people participated in the robberies.
For example, in the robbery at the State Employees Credit Union in Towson last Thursday, five holdup men were involved but only two were caught. One of them took hostages before surrendering to the Baltimore County police.
"That means there are at least three more out there," said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.
The police believe that a number of the robberies were committed by drug addicts, at least one of whom is known to have a $500-a-day habit. Two of the suspects in custody were apprehended during a drug raid.
In January, the number and frequency of the holdups began to escalate and spread to other jurisdictions, apparently due in part to "copycat" robbers.
Then last month, the robbers became increasingly brazen and violent. Restaurant and food markets were invaded by the shotgun-wielding holdup men even when they were filled with customers.
Chi Chi's Restaurant in Timonium was one of those hit by the shotgun gang. Twenty-five customers and a number of employees were forced to lie on the floor as they were robbed and money from the business was taken.
In other robberies, employees were pistol-whipped.
On Feb. 28 -- after committing two robberies just hours earlier -- the gang robbed the Holiday Inn in Pikesville and shot an employee because he was unable to open the safe.
SUSPECT.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ARREST DATE
Tony Maurice Bedford, 19.. .. .. 3/9
alias S. A. Muhammed
5400 block, Bucknell Road
ROBBERIES WITH WHICH CHARGED
12/22 -- Goldberg's 3100 block, W. North Ave
1/11 -- McDonald's 700 block, Washington Blvd.
1/17 -- United Iron and Metal, 2500 block, Wilkens
2/9; 2/23 -- Hardees, 6600 Belair Road
2/11 -- 7-Eleven, 100 block, E. 25th St.
2/18 -- McDonald's, 2800 block, Greenmount Ave.
2/23 -- Pizza King, 5900 Radecke Ave
2/25 -- Valu Food, 4200 Frankford Ave.
3/1 -- Shoe City, 5600 The Alameda
3/2 -- Plaza Mini-mart, 5500 block, Sinclair Lane
2/21 -- Food Place 8500 block, Liberty Road
2/28 -- Imperial Pontiac-Nissan, Woodlawn
2/28 -- Holiday Inn, Pikesville