Extra police respond to crime spate

January 31, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

City police are boosting patrols in Ednor Gardens, a compact rowhouse community near Memorial Stadium, in response to a rash of armed robberies that includes a fatal shooting early Saturday.

A special eight-member "flex squad" will be assigned to patrol the neighborhood beginning today, said Sgt. James Sparks of the Northeastern District. The squad, which works in troubled neighborhoods, will be joined by four officers on bicycle patrol and seven or more officers on foot patrol.

It marks the second time within a week that patrols have been added to the neighborhood, he said.

"It's easy pickings for [criminals] at this time," Sergeant Sparks said. "They do it several times, get away with it, and they'll do it again."

The quiet community was rocked at 2:45 a.m. Saturday when city correctional officer Jerry Watkins was killed in front of his home in the 3700 block of Elkader Road. He was shot as he returned home after work in what police are investigating as a botched robbery.

Hours earlier, a man and woman were robbed at gunpoint as they entered their home nearby in the 3600 block of Rexmere Road. Two carjackings and three other armed robberies -- including a man who was robbed of his wallet, watch and a pan of lasagna 10 days ago -- have also been reported recently, Sergeant Sparks said.

Kristina Auth, a resident of Ednor Gardens for more than five years, said yesterday that she is pleased by the increase in police patrols.

On Saturday, Ms. Auth and her husband distributed 65 home-safety fliers along Kimble Road with suggestions to leave porch lights on, keep doors and windows locked and report all suspicious activity to the police.

She said Ednor Gardens was hit with a rash of robberies three years ago, when residential break-ins and purse snatchings forced neighbors to become more aware.

"We are angry, and we want to keep in touch with the neighbors and let them know that it won't happen to them," Ms. Auth said. "I think people are going to take a stand. Enough is enough -- we love our homes and we refuse to let a yo-yo do anything like this."

City Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, a 3rd District Democrat, who has lived in Ednor Gardens for 15 years, said the recent spate of crime is the worst he has seen. Four neighbors have called his council office recently to complain after they were robbed, he said.

"It is devastating to a neighborhood. Unfortunately, this same thing could happen anywhere," Mr. Cunningham said. "We'll have a tremendous police presence, people will be wary, and then they'll move on. If they don't get these guys now, they'll go somewhere else, to Rodgers Forge, to the east side."

Dorothy Lett, a 30-year resident of Ednor Gardens who lives on Elkader Road, said she has been wary ever since Mr. Watkins was shot, when she was jarred awake by the sound of gunshots.

"It was two blasts, so loud it felt like something shook the house," she said. "But this is a fairly nice neighborhood, and I'm not afraid."

Neighbors Carl and Michele Johnson pledged to take better safety precautions in the wake of the recent crimes.

"Unless you live on an island or on another planet, it's hard to insulate yourself [from crime]," Mr. Johnson said.

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