Two children who suffered electrical burns this week while playing near 13,000-volt electrical transformers may have had access to the devices because drug dealers are using them to store their drugs, police said today.
Sgt. Keith Tiedemann, of the city's Stop Squad, which fights drug crimes in public housing projects, said the use of the green, ground-level transformer boxes as drug "stashes" has become "common."
"What they do is take the locks off them, and put their own locks on," Tiedemann said. Police became aware of the practice about six months ago.
"Usually they lock them back up again and keep somebody close by to watch them," he said. But if the drugs are moved or stolen, the boxes may be left open.
"I hope it's a trend and they'll just stop doing it," he said.
An 8-year-old Annapolis boy remained in critical condition today after he was severely burned by an electrical transformer in the Robinwood project there Tuesday evening.
Terrence Tolbert, of the 1300 block of Tyler Ave., received burns on his face, left hand and right shoulder after he crawled into a ground-level electrical transformer about 6:20 p.m. Tuesday. He was admitted to Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Washington.
Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore housing authority, said another 8-year-old boy suffered burns on his arm at 4:30 p.m. Monday while playing hide-and-seek beside a 13,000-volt transformer box at Hollander Ridge Apartments, at Pulaski Highway and Moravia Road. The box is normally padlocked, Toohey said.
The boy, Frank West, was listed today in fair condition at Francis Scott Key Medical Center.
Harold S. Greene, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, said today the transformer box at Robinwood, which houses electrical and timing equipment for streetlights in the area, was last locked and secured at 8 p.m. April 19 after routine maintenance. Its locks were broken sometime between then and Tuesday night's incident.
Defeating the padlocks, he said, "required a person with more than the ability of an 8-year-old boy."
The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which sold the box to the authority, is being consulted for ideas on ways to decrease its vulnerability to break-ins, he said.
"We will be certainly be monitoring all these boxes very carefully from this point on," Greene said.
Greene said it was the first such injury at a public housing project in Annapolis since 1980, when a 14-year-old youth was critically burned and two companions were injured at the same Robinwood transformer when they found a broken lock and opened the lid.
Art Slusark, a spokesman for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said the transformers are housing authority property. Such devices are common in housing developments and industrial sites.