Stores near light rail station in Arundel say thefts on rise

May 19, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Though some merchants in the Cromwell Field Shopping Center say Baltimoreans are riding the light rail to pilfer their stores, Anne Arundel County county police say that's not quite ++ true.

"We've arrested a bunch of people from our own county, too," said Officer Randy Bell, county police spokesman.

Since beginning a Light Rail Enforcement Initiative two weeks ago, police have made 29 arrests for shoplifting at the center. Most shoplifters from the center were caught at the Glen Burnie/Cromwell station across the street. Police also have arrested two shoplifters at the Linthicum station.

Police and light rail officials said they are hard pressed to link the merchants' concerns directly to the trains.

"You aren't going to find anybody who can make the connection," said Dianna Rosborough, a spokeswoman for the Mass Transit Administration.

When asked how they know their shoplifting woes stem from light rail, merchants point to missing store items, or cite their own feelings. But they offer nothing more concrete.

Some conceded that shoplifting is part of doing business, and has always been a problem at Cromwell -- maybe more so since light rail arrived, maybe not. They can't be sure.

"We've had an increase in theft. I don't see the people do it. I just know the merchandise is gone," said Sharon Sterehlen, manager of Matthews Hallmark. "We've had to put a lot of things behind the counter. But I don't know if the light rail is doing it to me or not. I just know theft has increased."

The store had about 24 light gray Orioles T-Shirts, worth about $200, stolen within one week in April. Now the store only displays one size of each shirt. "I can't keep Orioles T-shirts," said Ms. Sterehlen. "I'm not allowed to order them anymore."

But some merchants said the connection is there.

"We used to have our regular shoplifters -- which was one too many -- but it's really bad now," said D. E. Jones' assistant manager, Dorothy Tillery. "They go back there and get the trash bags -- it looks like a store bag -- and get men's tube socks," she said. "They'll throw them into the bag and out the door they go to the train before you know you've been hit."

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