Alice Dorshow heard but ignored the sirens wailing past her Frederick Road home Thursday night -- a sound usually signaling an emergency in some other neighborhood.
But the sirens that broke the silence of her Catonsville neighborhood proved to be a clarion of crime alarmingly close to home as paramedics and police rushed to the aid of 76-year-old man who had been robbed and beaten in the parking lot of the nearby Candle Light Inn.
Last night, Harry C. Grant remained hospitalized in serious condition while his 65-year-old wife, Virginia, remained at his bedside. The family declined to comment on the attack. Baltimore County police have made no arrests.
Residents on Frederick Road said yesterday that they were appalled by the brutal attack but not surprised that the violent crime swirling around them in other communities has finally touched down on their peaceful street.
"It sounds like much of the same thing that's happening everywhere," Mrs. Dorshow said. "This business of crime is becoming an epidemic, especially with the drug problem."
"I don't think any neighborhood is safe anymore, not even the nicer ones. In fact, the nicer ones are probably more susceptible," she added.
Baltimore County police said violent crime is rare in the tiny community of spacious family homes at the crossroads of Rolling and Frederick roads, near Patapsco Valley State Park.
With the exception of a few robberies -- including two holdups at a convenience store -- the attack on Mr. Grant behind the Candle Light Inn in the 1800 block of Frederick Road is the most violent incident to occur there in years, they said.
The Grants had eaten dinner with another couple, and the couple's granddaughter, when the elderly man went outside about 9:30 p.m. to get his car from a rear parking lot and drive it to the building's entrance, where his wife was waiting for him.
As Mr. Grant unlocked the door of his car, someone struck him on the back of the head three times with a blunt object and stole credit cards from his wallet, according to police reports.
A bystander saw Mr. Grant slumped against his car as another man ran to a large American-made car -- a vehicle with a loud muffler that sped out of the parking lot onto Frederick Road. Police were not sure if more than one man took part in the attack.
Mr. Grant's wife found him seriously injured, bleeding from head injuries, at the car. He was unable to tell police what had happened or describe who had attacked him.
For some, the attack on the elderly man was reminiscent of the murder of a grandmother two weeks ago during a purse snatching in the parking lot of a Caldor store at Westview Shopping Center, just a short distance away.
A number of shootings and disturbances have been reported in the past at Security Square Mall, also close by, and house break-ins are sporadic throughout the Catonsville and Woodlawn area.
"Nobody is safe. These criminals don't care who they attack -- young or old -- just as long as the victim looks a little lucrative," said a 77-year-old woman who declined to give her name for fear that she, too, may become a target of robbers.
Diva Chrzanowski, who lives in the 1800 block of Frederick Road, said she is scared to allow her young children to play outside alone for fear that they also will become the victims of crime.
She said Frederick Road is a thoroughfare for hitchhikers, cars and buses. More unfamiliar faces come through the neighborhood every day, she said.
"It's scary," Mrs. Chrzanowski said of the changes in the neighborhood where she and her husband have chosen to raise their family.
"We've got deadbolt locks on our doors and lights outside of our house -- other than that, what more can you do?" she asked.