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 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.
Commissioner Woods and his police counterpart in Baltimore County, Chief Cornelius J. Behan, appeared with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and
County Executive Roger B. Hayden at the Holiday Inn in Pikesville -- 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.
There have been five others in Anne Arundel County, the police there believe.
Yesterday Mr. Schmoke and Mr. Hayden issued an appeal to the public for information and cooperation in tracking down members of the gang or gangs who have eluded arrest.
"We have to stop them. We have to stop them quickly," Mr. Hayden said.
Although 13 people 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 the police said they do not know how many other robbers may still be at large.
Details of the cooperative agreement must still be worked out, and neither Commissioner Woods not Chief Behan could say yesterday 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 reasons for the city's reluctance to join in a mutual aid agreement is not entirely clear, but apparently it 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."
Officers in Baltimore County currently must be careful about working their way across the border in the course of an investigation, Chief Behan said. "They sometimes don't know which side of the fence they are on," he said.
Under the new plan, police officers in both jurisdictions will 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. Under the new agreement, this would not be necessary.
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 Feb. 19 drug raid 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 13 now in custody for the shotgun robberies.
L "We've been working very well together," Mayor Schmoke said.
Mr. Schmoke, Mr. Hayden and police officials stressed the importance of cooperation from the public in solving the crimes.
Metro Crime Stoppers and the Holiday Inn in Pikesville both have offered $1,000 rewards for information leading to the arrests and indictments of members of the shotgun gangs. During a Feb. 28 holdup, a desk clerk at the Holiday Inn was shot and 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. Those tips resulted in 40 composites and photographs of suspected armed robbers, Sergeant Kincaid said.