Asian-American family robbed in 'home invasion'

May 12, 1992|By Bruce Reid and Patrick Ercolano | Bruce Reid and Patrick Ercolano,Staff Writers Staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

Members of an Asian-American family in Cockeysville were bound, and their home was ransacked, early yesterday by four young Asian-American men armed with knives, Baltimore County police said.

Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a police spokesman, said about $6,000 in cash was taken from the home during the robbery, which was similar to robberies of Asian-American families in other cities around the nation.

Some jewelry also was taken from the home of Jason Chu, 42, the owner of Tony Cheng's Restaurant at 801 N. Charles St.

Police have not determined the value of the stolen items.

In what police in other cities describe as "home invasions," young Asian-American men, sometimes using violence and terror, prey on well-to-do Asian-American families.

Police have speculated that the thieves believe their Asian-Americans victims will be less likely to cooperate with investigators.

Sergeant Doarnberger said yesterday's robbery occurred about 2 a.m. in the 10600 block of Pot Spring Road.

The robbers, all in their 20s and between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 6 inches tall, entered the Chu home through a window.

The men tied up Mr. Chu, his wife, Aannie, 41, and their daughter, Alice, 12, with telephone cord. A fourth member of the family, 6-year-old son Michael, remained asleep during the robbery.

Mr. Chu received a small cut on his left arm during the robbery, Sergeant Doarnberger said.

There were no other injuries, he added.

After the victims freed themselves about 3 a.m., they called police.

Police believe the suspects escaped in a car. No arrests have been made in the case.

Attempts to contact the Chu family yesterday were unsuccessful.

Police in other cities have said the Asian-American thieves sometimes stake out Asian-owned restaurants or businesses, then follow the owners home.

"It's definitely a similar incident," Sergeant Doarnberger said of the Cockeysville robbery. Victims are "targeted because they are known in the [Asian-American] community," he added.

Similar robberies have been reported in recent years in the Washington suburbs, including Montgomery County, and in Philadelphia, Boston, New York City and elsewhere.

Sgt. Sid Branham of the Baltimore County Police Department's organized crime intelligence unit said the robbery was the fourth home invasion" involving Asian-Americans that has been reported to county police in 3 1/2 years. For every reported crime, he said, at least a few go unreported because the criminals generally try to frighten victims into keeping silent, he said .

The county police "haven't had too many cases [like this]," said Sergeant Doarnberger.

"We'll likely go to the police in the Washington, D.C., area and tell them the particulars of this case. Since they've had a lot more experience with these [crimes], they might be able to pinpoint some suspects for us."

The neighborhood where the Chu family lives, Overlook, has an entrance marked by stone gates.

Signs at the gate read "Private Property" and "Please Respect Our Privacy As We Respect Yours."

The large homes in the development, at the northern end of Pot Spring Road, are valued at about $500,000, neighbors said.

Most of the homes appear to be new and sit on large tracts.

Several neighbors said they had no contact with the Chu family, other than to wave at them from a distance.

"They're a real quiet family," said Karen Nolan, a neighbor.

Other neighbors said they had not even heard about the robbery, but they expressed shock over the crime.

"It's usually a real safe place," said Mrs. Nolan, who added that most families have alarm systems in their homes.

"The world's in turmoil. It's just getting closer to home," said one neighbor who asked not to be named.

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