A recent wave of shotgun robberies in Baltimore and Howard counties appears to have been committed by the same group of masked gunmen, prompting police to warn area restaurants that may be next on the list.
Robbers have struck five restaurants in Baltimore County, two in Howard County and one in the city, storming in at closing time and threatening employees with sawed-off shotguns and knives, police said.
"They were calm as can be. It seemed like they really knew what they were doing. . . . They'd obviously learned how to do this through experience," said Brian Beck, the manager of the Crab Shanty restaurant in Ellicott City, which was robbed Monday night.
In each robbery, an employee taking trash out or locking up for the night has been accosted by two to four armed men wearing stocking masks, police said.
Altogether, robbers have stolen more than $10,000 from area restaurants in a monthlong crime spree, said Baltimore County police Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger.
In the last two weeks, the Sir Walter Raleigh Inn in Ellicott City, Chi-Chi's of Timonium, the Suburban House in Pikesville and Bob's Big Boy of Catonsville have all been hit.
Three Sizzler restaurants, two in Baltimore County and one in the city, were also robbed by gunmen between June 23 and July 15, police said.
Many of the robberies have occurred in the U.S. 40 corridor, so police in Howard and Baltimore counties are circulating tip sheets to businesses along the highway, said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a Howard County police spokesman.
"We want to let businesses know that they should be especially careful while locking up for the night, since that's the time the robbers typically appear," Sergeant Gardner said.
No injuries have been reported in the robberies, which in almost all cases have ended with the gunmen escaping after locking employees in a freezer or a back room, police said.
Police do not believe the robberies are related to a series of shotgun robberies this spring.