Film is driving force behind increased patrols by the police

Movie about car theft puts Baltimore County officers on alert

June 15, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

After watching Nicholas Cage take less than one minute to steal a car in the action film "Gone in 60 Seconds," Baltimore County police are worried that people might walk out of a theater and think they can do the same thing.

In response, they have increased patrols near the county's largest movie theater, The Avenue in White Marsh, and at Mass Transit Administration parking lots during evening hours, said Capt. Lee W. Russo, commander of the White Marsh precinct.

"It could be another example of life imitating Hollywood. For me, it is [about] being proactive," said Russo, adding he has not seen an increase in thefts since the movie premiered. "If there are any lingering interests, they will be deterred."

In the movie, Cage plays a thief whose goal is to steal 50 vintage cars in 72 hours. In each instance, he is able to steal the car in less than 60 seconds.

The movie was released Friday, and at $25.5 million, it topped movie sales during its first weekend. It is playing in 29 theaters in the Washington-Baltimore area, and some law-enforcement officials are concerned that it might encourage first-time car thieves, particularly juveniles.

"Some of the things they say are far-fetched. But then there are some realistic instances [such as popping the ignition] that we in law enforcement have to deal with," Russo said.

Last year, 3,199 cars were stolen in Baltimore County, and 7,258 in the city.

Nationally, auto theft costs about $9 billion a year. About 10 percent of those arrested for auto theft in the city and Baltimore County were juveniles, county police said.

Andrea Marozas, a Walt Disney Studios spokeswoman, declined to comment on the movie.

Officials in the city and in Anne Arundel and Howard counties say they have not added patrols because of the movie.

Some theater managers said they do not fear that the film will influence moviegoers to steal cars. "We have extremely visible security," said Kathi McLaren, marketing coordinator for The Avenue.

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