Suspects sought in street robberies

Statistics show rise in such crimes during January

January 08, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Several street robberies during the first week of the year have Howard County police searching for five suspects.

Police are investigating a street robbery on each of the first three days of the year - two involving guns. Street robberies differ from commercial robberies in that they involve someone holding up an individual or a group of people rather than a business.

Howard police statistics for the past seven years show that January typically has the most street and commercial robberies of any month except October, county police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

"Sometimes we see crime trends without an obvious explanation," Llewellyn said.

She noted that most of the county's street robberies occur after dark and said one possible reason for the January increase could be that it gets dark early.

Crime statistics indicate police responded to seven street robbery calls during November - the latest calls-for-service statistics available.

The first street robbery of the year reported to police occurred just before 11 p.m. New Year's Day in the 8900 block of Town and Country Blvd. in Ellicott City. Someone placed a handgun to a man's chest and demanded money, according to police reports. The suspect - described as a 5-foot-8-inch male wearing a white leather jacket with "Averex" on the back - fled in a navy-blue Toyota Tercel station wagon. The man took a watch and cash, police said.

Police now believe the victim and suspect knew one another other, Llewellyn said. On Wednesday in Columbia's Harper's Choice village, two people reported to police that they were robbed at gunpoint by three males who said they were looking for "money and weed." The two were in the 5400 block of Woodenhawk Circle about 8:10 p.m. when the men approached, police reports said. The men took a cell phone, a wallet and keys before fleeing, police said.

Police released descriptions for two of the suspects: Each appeared to be about 6 feet tall with a dark complexion, and each was clean-shaven. Both were wearing heavy jackets, and both displayed a black pistol.

In a crime Thursday evening behind the Columbia Athletic Club in Harper's Choice, a man was walking on a recreational path when he was struck on the head with an unknown object, according to police reports. The man's backpack was stolen, police said.

Authorities do not believe that any of the three crimes are connected, Llewellyn said. Many times, however, police find that one person or a group of people is responsible for several cases, Llewellyn said.

Trend in robberies

"While we do see an increased number of robberies in January, we also see a lot of closures in the cases toward the end of the month," she said. "The numbers usually drop way down in February because of arrests."

Police have not made any arrests in the three street robberies this year.

Officers also responded to two other incidents Thursday that initially were reported as street robberies. Someone called police about 6 p.m. to report that a person had been kicked and punched by two young males near Whiskey Bottom Shopping Center in North Laurel, police reports show.

About 40 minutes later, in the 5700 block of Railroad Ave. in Elkridge, a woman and two friends were approached by three people each of whom wielded a shotgun, according to police reports.

When police discovered that nothing was taken in either case and that the victims and suspects appeared to know each other, those two cases were reclassified as assaults, Llewellyn said.

Safety tips

Llewellyn offered several tips for reducing the chance of being the victim of a street robbery: Be aware of surroundings and do not take shortcuts through poorly lighted areas, she said. Stick to well-traveled areas, and stay alert while waiting for a bus or walking through a parking lot.

Don't flash large amounts of cash, Llewellyn said, and be especially careful after dark.

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