Rise in robberies has common thread Police say criminals tend to commit multiple thefts

July 03, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

When Lisa Keir saw an Oldsmobile with two men pull up near her car in the Towson Town Center parking garage, she thought everyone's worst nightmare was about to happen to her.

"He said he wanted my purse and I gave it to him," said Keir, 49, of Glyndon. "I feel fortunate that all I have is a bad memory and a sore arm."

Keir's experience -- robbed and shoved to the ground by a man wielding a metal club -- also became a statistic in the dramatic growth of robberies in Baltimore County.

Police this week issued a report on crime showing a 25 percent increase in robberies in the first three months of the year, compared with the first quarter of 1995 -- 727 robberies of people and businesses between Jan. 1 and March 31, against 583 during the same period last year.

Although police did not have statistics completed for the second quarter, which ended Sunday, they say the number of robberies decreased from April through June. Spokesman Bill Toohey said robberies in the county dropped from about 35 per week last year to about 10 per week after police began specialized robbery patrols in March in high-crime areas.

"I think this is good news; the robbery task force worked," Toohey said. "But no one is declaring a complete victory yet. We have to keep working at it. Criminals use imagination and energy, and they will look for ways around us and we have to

keep up with it."

In many cases, such as the attack on Keir in the shopping mall garage June 26, the crime is not an isolated incident. Police say robbers tend to commit multiple offenses and that the men who fled with Keir's purse had robbed an 80-year-old woman an hour earlier in Parkville and a 66-year-old woman June 24 in the parking lot of the Giant supermarket in the 8100 block of Loch Raven Blvd. near Towson.

The men -- who sometimes work in a group of four -- also are suspected in two other cases, police said.

The 66-year-old woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she parked at the bottom of the lot about 7 p.m. and felt someone tug at her shoulder purse as she walked toward the store.

"They cut the strap, and I just turned and started running after them," she said. "I taught junior high for 33 years, so I'm used to running after kids. But I stopped when I saw how many of them were in the car. They were just grinning."

The women said they were shaken by the robberies but did not plan to change their shopping habits.

"This won't keep me from shopping," said Keir, who had bought a bathing suit and a jacket at Nordstrom that night. "I mean, you have to get your priorities straight. Next time I'll just have a security guard walk me out to my car."

The Towson woman said she has been going to the Giant store for years. "Usually I park closer to the door, but that night I was late and just took the first spot that I saw, so of course that's when they got me," she said.

While a small wave of street robberies seems to be occurring in the Towson area, business robberies are the most common, police said.

"I know the Police Department is doing their darnedest to combat crime," said Albert J. Craemer, whose Salon Albert in the 8600 block of Liberty Road has never been robbed. "But I think we are dealing with professional criminals that are hooked on drugs, and we need more of a police presence in the business areas."

He said he has tried to get county officials interested in holding a referendum for a new tax that would pay for private patrols in business districts.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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