For weeks, the neighborhood kids in Glenchester had been complaining that a man once charged with sexual child abuse was back, propositioning them. And when Steve LeMaster heard the youngsters shouting, "There he is, there he is," Monday afternoon, he took off in pursuit.
Along with police, he chased the man they know only as "Uncle Chuckie," between buildings at nearby Glen Burnie High School until he caught him by the scruff of the neck.
"I told him, 'You aren't going anywhere,' " Mr. LeMaster recounted.
Twenty minutes later, however, Chuckie was indeed going somewhere, walking off into the rain after police decided they had no reason to hold him. And residents of the community off Baltimore and Annapolis Boulevard were fuming.
"I think half the people are wanting to carry weapons," complained Linda Otto, Mr. LeMaster's sister. "I'm scared to death to let my kids out."
"Chuckie," identified through court records as Charles Edward Griffith, 31, whose last known address was on Georgia Avenue in Glen Burnie, was indicted May 19, 1986, on charges of sexual child abuse, sex offense and assault and battery that stemmed from a 1983 case.
He pleaded guilty to assault and battery in January 1987, and prosecutors dropped the remaining charges. He served four days in the county Detention Center, three years on supervised probation and performed 120 hours of community service.
When he showed up in Glenchester early last week, worried residents who knew of his record immediately called police. But police say there is little they can do.
"There is no evidence he has done anything wrong or fondled anyone," said Capt. Gary Barr, Northern District commander. "We've had reports that he has traded baseball cards and given them pictures and other expensive things."
"We're really scared. We won't even let [the children] out in the yard," said Shari Boyer, who runs a family day-care business from her home.
And neighborhood children are starting to arm themselves, Mr. LeMaster said. "I saw a boy with a baseball bat the other day," he recalled. "He said they're trying to protect themselves from Chuckie."
In response to the complaints, police have increased patrols throughout the community of about 350 modest Cape Cods and ranchers during the past two weeks. And parents said they believe the department is now taking their complaints seriously.
Parents first reported seeing a man they identified as "Uncle Chuckie" in the neighborhood about a week and a half ago, offering young boys gifts.
Mrs. Otto said the man offered her 14-year-old son $20 last Saturday to accompany him into nearby woods. The boy declined.
Each time parents saw the man, they called police. But by the time patrol cars arrived, the man had disappeared.
Earlier on Monday, the man allegedly chased three youths into a house on Louise Drive. When the boys locked him out, the man pounded on the door trying to get in, the boys said.
Judy Rankin, who owns the home where her son and the others took refuge, complained that the situation has gone too far.
"I'm going to press charges for trespassing," she said. "He's after any kid he can get down into that ravine."
That is why Mr. LeMaster went after him Monday.
"I know it was stupid," he conceded after the chase. "I told my nephew later that he should never get involved in a police chase because the guy could have a knife or something. But at the
time, I was just afraid he was going to get away."
Parents who want "Uncle Chuckie" arrested say he has been camping out in a nearby park and is a serious threat to children.
But police say their hands are tied.
"Until he actually breaks a law, we can't arrest him," said one officer who did not want to be identified.
Other parents feared that continued pressure on "Chuckie" in their neighborhood may force him to move somewhere where he unknown.
"We just don't want a child to be hurt," said Mrs. Otto. "Why does someone have to get hurt first?"