Many uneasy over robberies in Abingdon, Bel Air

May 01, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

In the wake of a series of recent robberies at banks and stores along the Route 24 corridor between Abingdon and Bel Air, merchants and police have quietly stepped up security, merchants say.

Seven county banks have been robbed since November, five in the Abingdon-Bel Air vicinity, police records show.

Visitors to the Maryland National Bank branch at Constant Friendship are now greeted by Sidney Stern of Wackenhut Security Services.

After an April 14 robbery, Mr. Stern was assigned to the bank branch as a deterrent to would-be robbers.

"We've used private security at several locations throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area," said Dan Finney, public relations director for NationsBank Corp., which acquired Maryland National Bank last year.

"It's not unusual," he said. "Other banks are doing it as an effective deterrent" to would-be robbers.

For security reasons, Mr. Finney said he could not disclose which branches were using private security guards or say which had armed guards.

Robbers in the Abingdon-to-Bel Air corridor frequently escape by running to a getaway car that can be heading toward Baltimore or Philadelphia before 911 dispatchers can ask, "Which way did they go?"

In some incidents, investigators believe robbers ran to nearby housing developments where they either live, hid out or had a getaway car waiting.

"The police are doing all that they can reasonably be expected to do," said Jan Metzner, who with her husband, Paul, is co-president of The Festival Merchants' Association.

The Metzners own and operate P. M. Creations, a jewelry store at The Festival. They were robbed at gunpoint in October 1992 by two Philadelphia men who were later convicted of the crime. Each was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Many merchants at The Festival have become involved with Sheriff's Office programs designed to help them prevent robberies and teach them what to do if they are robbed, said Mrs. Metzner.

"I just completed a women's self-defense course run by the Department of Parks and Recreation, and I would recommend it to all women," she said.

The Sheriff's Office has been offering seminars for merchants for at least three years, said Kent Cocher, owner of Little Professor Book Center at The Festival.

"The sheriff's program offers lots of tips on [in-store] security, register procedures and closing," Mr. Cocher said.

Foot patrols have been added at The Festival, and county merchants are encouraging state and local police to visit their shopping centers regularly, said Mrs. Metzner.

"We love to see the police driving by or just sitting in their patrol cars on the parking lot, taking a break," she said.

In the Metzners' jewelry store robbery, two men stole two bracelets worth about $6,000.

A state trooper on patrol near the shopping center arrested two suspects, Mark J. Woodlock, 29, and Aaron T. McCoy, 32.

No one has been arrested in the April 14 robbery of Maryland National Bank in Abingdon.

State police Tfc. Jeff McCormack of the Bel Air barracks said the robber entered the bank, flashed a handgun and demanded money.

After a teller gave him an undisclosed amount of money, he fled behind the shopping center.

In two other robberies, Dec. 31 and Feb. 8 -- both at Harford National Bank in the Box Hill shopping center on Emmorton Road -- a man ran with cash after displaying a gun.

On Feb. 28, two armed men robbed the Harco Maryland Federal Credit Union in the Constant Friendship center.

In robberies outside the Abingdon-Bel Air corridor, police have arrested Peter John Binco Jr., 28, of Fallston and charged him with the April 8 robbery of the Bank of Maryland at 139 N. Main St. in Bel Air.

The Havre de Grace branch of the Harford National Bank was robbed Nov. 19 by a man wearing bandages on his face, the day after the First Virginia Bank branch in Edgewood was robbed by a similarly disguised man.

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