The epidemic of armed robberies plaguing the metropolitan area has apparently put the police in Baltimore and Baltimore County in the mood to reach a long-sought agreement that TC would give them powers of arrest and investigation in each other's jurisdiction.
"The criminal does not see boundaries, so why do the police have to?" Baltimore's police commissioner, Edward V. Woods, said at a news conference yesterday in Pikesville.
As he spoke, another related robbery was taking place -- this time in Delaware, where a bank holdup and chase through Wilmington streets ended in the crash of a getaway van and a gunbattle between the police and at least three heavily armed suspects.
One of the suspects was killed, and two others -- including a man linked to the March 7 holdup at the Maryland State Employees Credit Union in Towson -- were wounded. At least one Wilmington police officer was shot.
In Baltimore County, police Chief Cornelius J. Behan and Mr. Woods appeared with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and County Executive Roger B. Hayden at the Pikesville Holiday Inn -- the scene of one of the recent robberies attributed to the so-called shotgun gang.
Since October, the gang or possible imitators have struck 84 fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores and other businesses in the city and county, according to the latest police tally made available yesterday.
Five other robberies have occurred in Anne Arundel County, po
lice there believe.
Mr. Schmoke and Mr. Hayden issued an appeal to the public for help in tracking down gang members who have eluded arrest.
"We have to stop them. We have to stop them quickly," Mr. Hayden said.
Although 14 people -- including the suspect shot in Wilmington -- have been arrested in connection with the robberies, neither the politicians nor the police were ready to claim yesterday that investigators had broken the backs of the gangs.
"We generally feel we're getting closer and closer," Chief Behan said. But police said they do not know how many other robbers remain at large.
Details of the cooperative agreement must still be worked out, and neither Commissioner Woods nor Chief Behan could say when the formal document would be signed.
Baltimore County already has mutual aid agreements with Howard, Harford and Carroll counties. It has sought a similar agreement with the city for more than a decade, but has been unable to overcome the reluctance of successive Baltimore mayors and police commissioners.
The reason for the city's reluctance to join in a mutual aid agreement is not entirely clear but apparently involves such issues as cross-boundary chases, procedures for making arrests other jurisdictions, and even concern over policies to be followed for off-duty officers who come upon a crime.
"I've always been puzzled by the lack of an agreement," Chief Behan said in an interview yesterday. "We have demonstrated that we work so well together that it makes sense."
Under the new plan, officers in both jurisdictions would be able to cross boundary lines and retain their police powers. Currently, officers from Baltimore County whose investigation of a case leads them to Baltimore must call the city police and in many cases wait for city officers to accompany them.
Officials from both jurisdictions stress, however, that cooperation the investigation of the shotgun gangs has been very close.
For example, county officers accompanied city detectives in a drug raid Feb. 19 in the 3900 block of Woodbridge Road in Baltimore County and were co-affiants in the arrest warrant. Two of the six people arrested in the raid are among the 14 now in custody as suspects in the shotgun robberies.
Mr. Schmoke, Mr. Hayden and police officials stressed the importance of cooperation from the public in solving the crimes.
Metro Crime Stoppers and the Pikesville Holiday Inn have offered $1,000 rewards for information leading to the arrests and indictments of members of the gangs. During a Feb. 28 holdup, a motel employee was seriously wounded.
Sgt. Jack Kincaid of the Baltimore police said that since last October, Metro Crime Stoppers has received 65 hot line tips pertaining to the shotgun robberies.
In Delaware, the wounded suspect linked to the Towson credit union holdup was identified as Michael Montell Boston, 22, of Annapolis. He was in critical condition last night at Christiana Hospital, with at least five bullet wounds.
Baltimore County police obtained an arrest warrant Wednesday charging Mr. Boston with armed robbery and a handgun offense in connection with the credit union holdup.