With two suspects locked up in a series of sexual assaults in the Rodgers Forge area, Towson Precinct police are now shifting their attention to a string of armed holdups at two convenience stores in the Ruxton and Bare Hills areas.
Since April 25, police said, the Royal Farm store at 6067 Falls Road near Lake Avenue has been held up seven times -- on April 25, twice on April 26, April 30, June 2, 12 and 18.
About 2 1/2 miles away, the Royal Farm store at West Joppa and Thornton roads in the community of Ruxton has been robbed four times -- on June 1, June 5, June 28 and July 2.
The holdups all appear to be related, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department.
"In quite a few of them, the descriptions are pretty similar," he said. "Two men, black, in their late teens or early 20s, one armed with a handgun, a silver handgun in some of the cases."
The robbers often loiter outside the stores near the telephone, apparently waiting for customers to leave. At other times they enter the store and leave, then return later when customers have gone.
No one has been seriously injured in the holdups. The same pair appears to be responsible for holdups at several other convenience stores in the area, he said.
In all, county police recorded 84 convenience store robberies between Jan. 1 and July 7 this year, Sergeant Doarnberger said. Forty of those have involved Royal Farm stores, while 20 have been at High's stores and 10 at 7-Eleven stores.
Sixty-eight of the robberies occurred during the first six months of the year.
That compares with 64 during the same period last year, and 74 during that period in 1991.
Community concern about the sexual assaults in Rodgers Forge prompted the Towson Precinct to shift much of its resources to that area, Sergeant Doarnberger said.
On June 30, police arrested two men and charged them with rape, kidnapping, robbery and other sex offenses in an attack on a 30-year-old Rodgers Forge woman who was assaulted as she removed a vacuum cleaner from the trunk of her car.
The assailants are accused of raping and sodomizing the woman, then forcing her to drive to a bank machine on Roland Avenue and withdraw $80 from her account.
One of the suspects was identified as the result of a photo from a bank machine camera.
Police said they believe the two may also be connected to other crimes that alarmed the normally peaceful Rodgers Forge community.
"Now they [police resources] are going to be switched back," Sergeant Doarnberger said. "In some of the other precincts, our crime prevention people have been working with store employees, trying to provide some tips. I hear there will be a meeting soon with [Royal Farm] security people and our detectives."
Royal Farm stores are equipped with surveillance cameras, Sergeant Doarnberger said, but so far the quality of the photos of the suspects has been poor.