Robberies rose 12.7% in county last year 'It still scares you,' victim says of robbery

March 17, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Police say it is a disturbing trend.

Kanlesh Sardana says it makes him more apprehensive about going to work.

Robberies rose 12.7 percent in Anne Arundel County last year, and Mr. Sardana became part of the statistics in August when someone put a gun to his head and ordered him into an office at his Laurel motel.

"It still scares you, you know. It's not the kind of thing you ever forget," said Mr. Sardana, owner of the Laurel East Motel on Route 198.

The number of robberies rose from 513 in 1994 to 578 in 1995, according to Anne Arundel County police.

Statewide, robberies increased about 5 percent, from 14,491 reported in the first nine months of 1994 to 15,287 for the same period in 1995, said Michael J. McKelvin, a state police spokesman.

In Mr. Sardana's case, the thief was caught and convicted, and is awaiting sentencing.

Aaron G. Treadwell, 25, of the 2500 block of J St. S.E. in Washington was convicted Thursday by an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury of attempted murder, armed robbery and handgun violations for shoot- ing Mr. Sardana's night clerk in the head during a robbery Aug. 15.

Treadwell pointed a handgun at Mr. Sardana shortly after 7 a.m., marched him into a rear office and ordered his clerk to open the register, according to Fred Paone, assistant state's attorney.

Mr. Sardana bolted from the office, and Treadwell shot the clerk, Gurmukh S. Matta, 49, of Burtonsville before fleeing with about $80.

Mr. Sardana, 51, of Takoma Park said Mr. Matta has recovered but would not discuss the attack.

Treadwell, who had been staying at the motel, was caught the next day when he was stopped by U.S. Park Police after he ran a stop sign near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Greenbelt.

He is scheduled to be sentenced by May 13 Judge Martin A. Wolff.

Mr. Sardana has installed security cameras since the shooting, jTC but he said the robbery has made him more wary about going to work and about everyone who walks through his door.

"We live in a civilized society, so you wouldn't expect these sorts of things to happen," he said Friday.

Anne Arundel County police say motels are not experiencing a disproportionate increase in robberies, compared with other businesses that handle cash, such as convenience and liquor stores. The department does not keep separate statistics for each type of robbery.

"It's more just an increase in commercial robberies across the board," said acting Sgt. William Collier, head of the police robbery unit.

He and other officers said the nature of the motel business late hours, lone clerks and cash on hand -- makes them likley targets.

Sergeant Collier said that to minimize the risk, motels should install 24-hour video cameras inside and outside their offices if possible. They also should keep the motel exterior well lighted and aviod keeping large amounts of cash on hand, he said.

If robbers "get large ammonuts of cash from somewhere the first time, they're more likely to come back," Sergeant Collier said.

Motel managers say security has become a top priority.

"You always keep as little cash as possible on hand," said Louis Steele, general manager of the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge on Old Mill Bottom Road, which was robbed at knifepoint Dec. 28.

Mr. Steele was not working the night of that robbery, but he said he was badly frightened when he was robbed at gunpoint at 3 a.m. while working at another motel in Laurel three years ago.

A gunman came in with two accomplices and stuck a handgun in his face, he said.

"I said to myself, 'You've been through Korea and you've been through Vietnam, and now you're going to come home and get killed by your own people,' " said Mr. Steele, who spent 23 years in the Navy.

The thieves were caught and convicted, but robberies remain an "occupational hazard," Mr. Steele said.

"You don't keep cash around, and you just pray that nobody gets hurt," he said.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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