Stores hit by wave of vandalism Police blame incidents on youthful joy riders

April 02, 1997|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

For 20 years, Barry and Patsy Plowman saved extra dollars and shopped for larger business space, and on Jan. 2 they traded in their 1,500-square-foot shop in Pasadena for a 13,000-square-foot flower store with big glass windows in Glen Burnie.

They had 25 days to bask in their accomplishment. On the 26th day, vandals made the first foray. Over the next six weeks, they broke windows at Wildflowers Inc. on Crain Highway three times and robbed the shop once.

The couple didn't just fold, though; they decided to fight back by drawing other merchants, county police officers and leaders together to form PBC -- Police, Business, Community, Helping Each Other. The crime watch group was created to combat vandalism and graffiti from the Baltimore line to Jumpers Hole Road in Pasadena.

More than 100 businesses have been hit since November, county police said, mostly by vandals shooting out windows with BB guns and slingshots. Police have not made arrests in any of the attacks, but they blame juveniles.

"That's our belief, that it's teen-agers out joy riding at night with nothing better to do," said Northern District Capt. Emerson Davis.

Vandals' breaking windows and scrawling graffiti on walls and signs is "happening everywhere," said Northern District Sgt. Robert Delashmutt.

Most of the incidents have occurred at night. By the time damage is noticed the next day, the trail is cold and patterns are hard for police to detect.

"It's so difficult because the only thing you have to do is ride down the street and roll down your window," said Delashmutt, "and if you have a BB gun or a slingshot, they can be gone in seconds."

Police have responded to merchants' concerns with foot, bicycle and squad-car patrols, and they are beginning to see a dramatic slowing in the number of incidents, Davis said.

Incidents targeting businesses have declined to two or three a day from 10 to 15 a day in January, police said.

As the numbers have dropped, however, vandals are hitting more homes and cars. County police said they don't know the reason for the switch.

Reward established

Glen Burnie merchants have established a reward fund with $500 to fight the problem, but Patsy Plowman said no money has been paid out of it.

Few people know the fund exists, she said. Merchants hope to add to the fund by making more people aware of it this month at a community meeting.

At first, the Plowmans said, they were shocked and upset by the attacks on their shop.

Then they decided that "it was time we make an effort to do something," Barry Plowman said. "We would never leave the area. We love Glen Burnie," he said. "We live here, shop here and work here."

Shops with big glass windows seem to be popular targets for the vandals, county police and merchants said.

Down the street from the Plowmans' shop, Fourth Crane Antiques has been hit at least three times in the past nine months, said Linda Macey, an antiques dealer there. The last attack was about a month ago.

BB guns blamed

"They've been coming by with BB guns blowing out windows," she said. "If we're lucky, we just get a ding."

She and some other merchants have repaired the damage to their business.

Across the street, James French, co-owner of Aurora Florist, stared at a nearly 3/4 -inch hole in one of his double window panes.

The hole, caused by what French believes was a BB gun, did not break through the second pane. He has had to repair four other windows.

"There was a point when you would see the glass company out here almost on a daily basis for someone," said French, who has been in business in Glen Burnie 15 years and said he had never seen anything this bad before.

He will have a reminder this time until he paints it over: An undecipherable mark was left in black spray paint on the sign outside his shop.

"I think [the vandals] will find a new interest and the novelty of it will wear off," Delashmutt said. "Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part, but hopefully, as the weather gets better, they will find other interests with their friends. If not, we're going to be very busy."

A town meeting on the problem will be held at 7 p.m. April 16 at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association hall at Crain Highway and First Avenue.

Contributions to the reward fund may be made to: PBC, Bank of Glen Burnie, P.O. Box 70, Glen Burnie 21061.

Anyone with information on the vandalism and graffiti should call Northern District Police at 410-222-8610.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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