Suburbanites have fled the city for fear of...

FOR YEARS

August 22, 1992

FOR YEARS suburbanites have fled the city for fear of crime.

Now some city dwellers are fretting that a suburban crime has intruded on their neighborhood.

Last spring, the Federal Hill Garden Club decided to add to the floral displays neighbors had planted in front of their homes by decorating street corners. It passed the hat and bought 30 large planters, one to a corner at more than a half-dozen intersections. Each planter had flowers surrounding a centerpiece: a small evergreen shrub.

One night earlier this summer, a dozen of the pots were hit by systematic thieves who neatly pulled the shrubs from the pots and carted them off. The gardeners tried again: They replaced the stolen shrubs -- this time with a smaller, cheaper version. But late last month, the thieves struck again. At least a half dozen taken this time.

City dwellers are used to minor vandalism in their flower tubs and to thefts of things like copper downspouts or ornamental door fixtures. That's urban life. But shrubbery? That's suburban -- some $10,000 worth just in one part of Baltimore County last year. The Federal Hill gardeners will try once more.

But three strikes are out.

* * *

SUMMER JOBS for teen-agers are supposed to provide them with an introduction to the work world, some extra cash and keep them occupied and off the streets. But some youths are inadvertently getting a first-hand education in society's crime problem.

A teen-ager working in the Roland Park ice cream store was confronted one afternoon by a customer who told her: "I want you to pay attention to what I am going to tell you." Thinking this was a customer with a taste for an exotic sundae, she leaned forward ready to take his order. Instead of the sundae, he told her to empty the cash register of all the bills and put them in a bag.

The teen-ager complied. Before closing the bag, she asked if he wanted the change in the register drawer. He didn't. As she handed over the bag, she asked, "Would you like anything else?" The robber apparently wasn't interested in an ice cream to go and headed out the door.

The teen-ager, who remained composed throughout, reported the robbery, worked another four hours and finished her shift. This may disprove the popular notion that today's youths are pampered and unprepared for the real world.

* * *

NICE WORK IF You Can Get It category: As president of the University of Massachusetts, Michael J. Hooker will earn $175,000 a year, plus a residence, plus $12,250 per year paid into a special retirement fund, plus a $500,000 life insurance policy, plus a five-year contract. It's more than his predecessor made, more than he made at UMBC -- but about on par with U. Mass' basketball coach.

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