Easter Bunny and the missing doors Crime tail: Bunny-cop collar, city courthouse theft a metaphor for the times.

March 31, 1997

TOO BAD THE Easter Bunny wasn't at the Baltimore courthouse. Thieves brazenly made off with 300-pound solid brass doors that had graced the side entrance of the downtown building for 65 years.

They pulled the caper when the crime-fighting bunny was busy with another case in Ellicott City.

Barry Gibson, a dental technician, donned long ears and a bushy tail to promote his wife's shop on Main Street. But Mr. Gibson's bunny ears were definitely up when a couple entered the shop, the Forget-Me-Not Factory, two weeks ago. He saw the woman tuck a wooden Christmas ornament into her purse.

The man who accompanied her apparently tried to distract shopkeepers by causing a ruckus. But the watchful rabbit kept his focus. He tailed the pair to five more stores. The thieves never noticed the tall, colorful creature on their trail and were outmatched by the bunny, who alerted another merchant to call 911.

The suspects were released from the Howard County Detention Center on their own recognizance and with plenty of embarrassment.

Alas, no Robo-cop rabbits were hopping around Baltimore on March 13, when bandits made off with two ornate doors worth $30,000 at the old post office building. The heavy heist took some doing. Investigators believe it was an inside job, which required a key, a truck, plenty of help -- and a security breach.

A private contractor removed the doors from their hinges earlier that day and was to put one in storage and use the other to replace an aging door elsewhere in the building. The contractor disconnected the alarm system and television cameras. A guard -- not a bunny -- was assigned to patrol the entire building, and reported the doors missing while on his rounds.

For sure, the bunny made his catch in broad daylight during business hours; the brass door bandits struck at night. And Howard County police will acknowledge that it takes more than the help of one furry friend to battle crime in the suburbs.

But this unusual juxtaposition only feeds the image of a crime-ravaged Baltimore, where the huge doors are being stolen right from under the nose of courthouse guards, as opposed to safe suburbia, where it only takes an alert bunny to catch a thief.

Pub Date: 3/31/97

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