Arundel areas' ZIP code ties to Baltimore are upheld

Auto insurance rates main issue for residents

September 17, 2000|By Robert F. Patrick | Robert F. Patrick,SUN STAFF

The ZIP code ties of Brooklyn Park and Orchard Beach to Baltimore will not be dissolved, the U.S. Postal Service has decreed -- but Del. John R. Leopold vows to continue a 15-year quest for a change in their numeric identities.

Residents of the Anne Arundel County areas have complained for years about delivery confusion and higher auto insurance rates that they believe result from having a city ZIP.

"For some people, it's a petty thing," said Woody Bowen, vice president of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association, "but try to battle your insurance company ... or direct someone to find your community."

Michael Murphy of Memphis, Tenn., the Postal Service's chief of address management, rejected the request for changes a few weeks ago. Murphy's predecessor rejected a similar request in 1995.

Leopold said he was discouraged by the decision on what he sees as a "pride and identity" issue.

Anne Arundel's Brooklyn Park is included in the 21225 ZIP code, which includes the city neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Cherry Hill.

The county's Orchard Beach and Stoney Beach are in 21226 with the city's Hawkins Point and Curtis Bay.

Orchard Beach resident Geraldine Meluh said the insurance issue is the main complaint on.

Leopold recently surveyed eight of the top insurance companies selling auto policies in Maryland to determine if the practice of lumping city and county residents was widespread, and three other companies were contacted by The Sun -- with mixed results.

Two of the nine companies that responded to the survey, United States Auto Association (USAA) and the Hartford Fire and Casualty Group, include North County residents in a territory with a majority of city residents.

Several others said they combine customers from both sides of the border in areas that may have a majority of county residents.

A GEICO official, Chuck Kline, assistant vice president for pricing, said his company combines customers in an area labeled as "Territory 57" that includes four exclusively county ZIP codes and the two that cross the border, 21225 and 21226.

Kline said insurance companies use territories and not individual ZIP codes to reduce volatility in policy pricing and ensure that there is enough loss experience data to determine an insurance rate.

Leopold said consumers should exercise care in shopping for auto insurance, adding that he would contact the insurance companies and complain to the state's insurance regulatory agency.

The Pasadena Republican said he also may introduce legislation to ban the practice of including city and county residents in one territory for insurance purposes.

How much could be at stake?

A Maryland Insurance Administration comparison of auto insurance rates for basic required coverage, a 45-year-old married man living in the city would pay between $344 and $2,675.

The same man living in the metropolitian counties would pay $238 to $1,310. But insurance rates are not a concern of the post office.

Murphy said it assigns new ZIP codes only if there is a significant increase in population or the number of delivery routes.

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