The stained-glass window at the entrance of Lanniea Novak's Pulaski Highway restaurant and bar has been broken by burglars so many times that Novak says she can no longer afford to replace it.
"Now there's just a board covering the hole," she notes.
Since 1988, Novak says, her business, Memories, in the 7400 block of Pulaski Highway, has been burglarized more times than she can remember.
Sometimes the break-ins are just "smash and grabs," where thieves leave with little more than change and cigarettes. Other times, Novak says, they've taken, or destroyed, everything they could.
Crime in the area could be diminished, Novak contends, if Baltimore County police would patrol the area more frequently.
"I'm just a block to a block-and-a-half from the county-city line," says Novak, 44. "And the county [police] don't come down here." On a few occasions, she says, after she was notified at home of a break-in at the bar, police responded so slowly that she got there before they did.
Last month, after the restaurant's worst break-in, Novak spent $2,000 on bars to cover the large window at the front of her building. Novak says that July 4 robbery cost her more than $10,000. The burglars entered through a vent on the roof, disconnected the alarm and the telephone lines "and literally took every penny we had."
County police say the area on Pulaski Highway near the city line is not patrolled any differently because of its location.
In fact, Sgt. Steve Doarnberger, a county police spokesman, says, arrests are made in the area quite frequently because of a prostitution problem.
Doarnberger also says that the reported number of crimes in the area has gone down since last year, when 53 crimes took place in the first seven months. This year, only 23 crimes have been reported, although Doarnberger acknowledges that incidents at Memories have increased.
Other merchants in the area cite a marked increase in crime along Pulaski Highway, a strip dotted with fast-food franchises, trucker motels that advertise cheap rates and water beds, and other establishments running from the city into Baltimore and Harford counties.
Adeline Prybil, former owner of Prybil's liquor store, which closed in June, says crime got increasingly worse during the 20 years she ran the family business.
"I was held up so many times in that place it was unbelievable," says Prybil, 68. "Two months before we closed up, two guys came in with a gun and got me and my grandson, and threatened to shoot us if we moved."
The Prybils lost "thousands of dollars" because of robberies and the damage done to their business, Prybil says. Insurance companies told the family that they were in a high-risk area and insurance premiums skyrocketed.
"They wanted an outrageous price that we couldn't afford," Prybil says.
The crime cost the family many of its customers, and finally, the lack of business and the constant fear of being robbed at gunpoint became enough.
"I'm glad to be out of there," Prybil says. "I just couldn't take it . . . I feel sorry for the people who are still in that vicinity."
And though Joseph Moskios, the former owner of the Phil-Mar Inn, says he sold the restaurant primarily because of an injury, he admits that the crime in the neighborhood had started to cost him money when he sold the business in 1989.
The new owners of the Phil-Mar, who changed the business' name to Russo's, declined to comment on why the restaurant closed last November.
Moskios, who opened the restaurant in 1947, says that during his last five years at the Phil-Mar, night business declined to practically nothing "because people were afraid to come there. We still had great business during the day."
Moskios, 62, says he was burglarized a few times, and that he often slept in the building to deter break-ins, and carried a gun when walking to and from his car.
He nevertheless enjoyed his job, and says he probably would have kept the restaurant running.
"But now, after it's all over, I'm glad I'm out of there," he says. "I don't think I would have been able to stay there much longer."