Light-rail patrols result in 20 arrests

May 11, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County police have arrested 20 people, most of them on theft charges, since they beefed up patrols around light-rail stations in Glen Burnie, Ferndale and Linthicum last week.

Captain Gary Barr, Northern District Commander, said yesterday that 11 of those arrested were charged with trying to steal something from the Caldor store in the Cromwell Field Shopping Center, across Dorsey Road from the Cromwell Station rail stop.

The department began its Light Rail Enforcement Initiative last Wednesday after officers noticed an increase in shoplifting arrests at stores in the area, Captain Barr said.

The effort "is under way to get a handle and have an immediate impact on the crime spilling over and coming into our county," said Police Chief Robert Russell. "We want to have a quick impact on it."

He said police think thieves are using the light-rail line to get to the county.

In addition to the shoplifting arrests, five people were arrested on drug charges, three of them after police noticed them acting nervously and suspiciously, as police were making routine checks of passengers' ticket stubs.

County officers also have issued citations for such violations as failing to pay the light-rail fare and eating on light-rail trains, Captain Barr said. Fifteen such citations were given out the first two days of the initiative.

Northern District Officer Ron Bateman came up with the idea for the light-rail program after he and other officers observed an increase in shoplifting arrests, Captain Barr said.

Police suspicions were further aroused Feb. 24 when they caught a woman who was shoplifting at Caldor. The woman had a list of Caldor stores with her, police said, and at the bottom of the list was a reminder to make sure there was a light-rail stop at each of the ones on the list.

On March 25, county police caught four juveniles who had tried to shoplift from Caldor. The four said they had used light rail as their means of transportation, Captain Barr said.

"Our suspicions were confirmed when we looked at Caldor's arrest record. We noticed an increase in out-of-county arrests," he said.

Businesses in the Cromwell Field Shopping Center have been hit hardest by the crime wave, said Captain Barr, mainly because the shopping center is near the last stop on the light-rail line. Caldor has been hit hardest, he said.

There are four other light-rail stops in the county to the north of the Cromwell Station-Glen Burnie stop. The stations at Nursery Road, North Linthicum and Linthicum opened on April 2, 1993, said Dianna Rosborough, a spokeswoman for the Mass Transit Administration. The Ferndale and Cromwell Station stops opened 10 weeks later.

Two teams of four police officers -- one sergeant, two patrol officers and a plainclothes detective -- are patrolling the light-rail system 16 hours a day. The operation will continue as long as necessary, Chief Russell said.

A similar initiative was begun in November by Mass Transit Administration police, said Chief Bernard Foster, who took command of MTA officers that month. He described the program begun by county police as a "cooperative effort" that was "initiated by both organizations."

"What [Anne Arundel police] are doing, we've been doing every day since November. I have officers every day throughout the system. We're quietly doing our job," said Chief Foster, who noted that MTA police also have uniformed and plainclothes officers on light rail trains, subway trains and buses.

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