My Robbery: What's Scary Is Police Response

February 06, 1994|By JAMES S. KEAT

What is scarier, being abducted and robbed at gunpoint, or discovering that the Baltimore police aren't going to do much about it?

I'm not sure.

I was the first of what proved to be a series of people grabbed from the street near their homes a week or so ago and forced to help a gang pillage the victims' bank accounts at automatic teller machines.

For almost a week, until two Johns Hopkins students were similarly assaulted, I had no sign the police were investigating my case. After all, it wasn't an ordinary holdup. But I was fortunate in understanding why.

Though I hadn't yet read it, I was generally familiar with the series of articles on the Baltimore police by David Simon which begins today on Page 1A. It wasn't that the police don't care; there aren't enough of them assigned to this sort of investigation to keep up with the number of cases.

That is scarier than thinking they aren't interested, if you are a resident of Baltimore who is committed to city living, as I am. It's also small consolation.

What follows may not be entirely fair. It is an aggrieved citizen's perception of what happened, not the account of a reporter who has done all his homework. It may be cathartic; I certainly hope it helps others who may go through similar experiences and those who are in a position to mitigate them.

The incident itself has been thoroughly reported; there were about half a dozen more of them in the week after mine. Three or four thugs, usually armed with a short-barreled shotgun, grab a victim from the street late at night or early in the morning. The victim is hooded, sometimes bound, shoved into a car and taken to an ATM.

On the ride the victim's bank card is taken and he or she is forced to divulge the code that permits use of the card.

I didn't hesitate to give the robbers my number; in fact I did everything they demanded. No amount of money is worth a load of buckshot at close range.

There were few threats of violence, just a steady stream of intimidation backed, I needed no reminder, by that shotgun. The most direct threat was from one of the thugs, who said he planned to use my credit cards the next morning. If he were picked up because I had reported them stolen, he said, his buddies would kill my family.

There was little chatter among the thugs -- no discussion of where to use my ATM card, but a brief one about where to "dump" me. "Behind the projects," was the curt response.

After the thugs used my card at one ATM, proving I had given them the correct access code, they drove me to an East Baltimore neighborhood and shoved me out. The man who had done most of the talking ordered me to start walking and not remove the cloth wrapped around my head.

I stumbled a few times, then fell into a muddy courtyard behind a low-rise apartment complex. I stayed in place a few minutes, until I was reasonably sure they had left and weren't going to shoot after all.

I called out for help, got no response. Finally I managed to untie my hands, removed the cloth and walked to the nearest intersection.

It was roughly 11:30 or 11:45 p.m. Several cars drove past, ignoring my attempts to wave them down. It wasn't the most appealing neighborhood in Baltimore, but we were on a heavily traveled, well-lighted street. After several minutes, one car stopped. When I explained I had been robbed and asked to be taken to a police station, it drove off.

Then a taxi pulled up. I explained my plight again. When it was clear the driver would not take me to the police without cash, I asked him to radio his dispatcher and request he call police. The driver agreed, rolled up his window and drove off. I learned

eventually that he had in fact relayed my call sometime later.

After several more minutes, an MTA bus stopped for a red light. I knocked on the door, and the driver opened it. I explained my problem and asked her to radio her dispatcher. She did so immediately, and a police car arrived in a few minutes.

That was my first of several contacts with police officers as a result of my abduction. Without exception the officers were solicitous, efficient and professional. My problem wasn't with them individually; it was with them collectively.

A burglary at my home four years ago, in which fully insured stereo equipment was taken, was more thoroughly investigated

than the two major felonies committed on me this time. The difference was the sad state of the Police Department, not the quality of the officers.

After examining the location where I had been dropped, the officer brought me home and took a report. When he was finished, the officer said I would hear from investigators the next morning.

I heard nothing for six days, except for a message on my answering machine, early the afternoon after my abduction, to call an officer, whose name was garbled, at the Southern District between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. the next day.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.