Suburban nightmare No environment can be considered completely free of danger.

March 28, 1996

THE RAPE OF A 15-year-old girl who, with her 7-year-old sister, was abducted from outside the Howard County Central Library last week is a brutal reminder that evil knows no boundary.

Had the incident occurred in any urban environment in America, many suburbanites might have taken only passing notice. That the attack occurred in Columbia reminds us all that depravity's assaults on innocence anywhere are unconscionable and must be fought.

The two girls were waiting outside the library for their mother to pick them up after the library closed at about 9 p.m. last Wednesday. The children apparently had not been waiting long before a man approached and offered them a ride.

When they refused, he told them he had a gun and ordered them to start walking. The man led the girls to a wooded area about 150 yards away and ordered both to undress. He raped the 15-year-old and then told the children to run, threatening to shoot them if they stopped.

It was the seventh rape in Howard County this year; there were 32 rapes in 1995. A suspect, Timothy Bryan Chase, 29, of Columbia, was ordered held without bond this week after his relatives turned him in.

Living in an environment that does not have the immediately recognizable dangers of the big city can lull people into a false sense of security. For example, librarians at the Pratt Library at Pennsylvania and North avenues, in a discussion last year of crime in that area of Baltimore, mentioned they would never leave children alone to wait for parents.

In the idyllic and tranquil surroundings of the Howard County Library, employees leaving work felt some concern seeing two young girls sitting alone, but didn't feel compelled to wait with them until their parents arrived. It is ironic the same nearby woods that give the county facility an air of serenity provided the setting for the violent crime that occurred.

Many suburban parents have grown accustomed to being a few minutes late to pick up a child because they believe they will be "safe." Certainly, their children do not face the dangers encountered by kids who daily walk some of the city's most infamous streets. But these days, caution everywhere must be the rule.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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