The shotgun holdup of a Linthicum restaurant Tuesday was too close for comfort for county restaurant managers, who fear the incident may be tied to other robberies in the region.
Police in Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties are trying to solve a string of 12 holdups, in which employees are herded into walk-in freezers while the bandits escape.
"We are definitely concerned," said Gary Grismer, an area supervisor for Chi-Chi's Mexican Restaurant. "We've added more security and more lighting."
A Chi-Chi's in Timonium, Baltimore County, was robbed July 25.
Grismer, who oversees six of the eight restaurants inMaryland, including one in Pasadena, said management is considering building fences around the back doors and trash containers. "We don'twant to see anyone get hurt," Grismer said.
In several cases, robbers forced their way into the restaurants by accosting employees either taking out trash or locking doors after closing.
Most restaurant supervisors contacted yesterday said they were anxious about the number of hold-ups, but refused to be interviewed, saying they feared a story would only target their establishments.
Gary McCorkle, regional vice president of the Sizzler steak-house chain, which has restaurants in Pasadena and Annapolis, said the company was concerned about the robberies. Three different Sizzler restaurants were robbed: Catonsville, June 23; Baltimore, July 1; and Owings Mills, July 15.
"We are doing some internal things to create a higher awareness amongemployees," McCorkle said. "We are being more careful. We are helping the police."
Three restaurants have been robbed in Anne Arundel,the most dramatic on July 17, when four employees of Popeye's in Crofton were locked in a freezer for six hours after two masked gunmen threatened them with a sawed-off shotgun.
In most of the other incidents, employees were not locked in the freezers.
County police spokesman Officer V. Richard Molloy said that the Popeye's robbery and that of a Hardee's in Glen Burnie on July 19 are not tied to the incidents in Howard and Baltimore counties.
"We felt these were a different group," Molloy said. "We might have a lot of copycats like withthe sawed-off shotgun robberies."
However, police say the hold-upof the Wendy's restaurant in Linthicum might be linked to the other robberies.
On Tuesday, a Wendy's employee was leaving at about 1:15 a.m. when a man with a sawed-off shotgun and an accomplice ordered him back inside. The bandits demanded money from the safe and then ordered the man into a walk-in freezer.
Molloy said Howard and Baltimore county police have formed a task force to combat the holdups.
He also said that forcing employees into freezers is not new.
"It's been happening for years now," Molloy said. "All of a sudden, we have a lot more. It seems to be the in thing to do, but they didn't invent the wheel with this."