Holdups leave residents anxious

Homeland, Roland Park neighbors to discuss spate of robberies with police

October 30, 2002|By M. Dion Thompson and Jamie Stiehm | M. Dion Thompson and Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

As police continued their search yesterday for suspects in a string of weekend robberies, alarmed residents in the North Baltimore neighborhoods where the crimes occurred were preparing for a meeting with their local police commander.

"We don't want to be seen as easy pickings," Carter Michel Brigham, 36, said after dropping off her son at St. David's Church Day School on Roland Avenue. "That perception has got to change."

Brigham said last weekend's crimes heighten the sense of anxiety in her Roland Park neighborhood. She and her neighbors hope to raise their concerns with Maj. Scott Williams, the Northern District commander, at a meeting Nov. 7. She said the southern section of Roland Park is considering retaining a private security patrol.

"We've got to organize, because this is outrageous," she said.

The string of robberies began about 8 p.m. Friday when three men, one of them carrying a handgun, walked up to a man getting out of his car in the 5200 block of Purlington Way in Homeland and demanded money. The men locked the man in his car trunk and fled with a wallet and cell phone. A second robbery occurred around 4:20 p.m. Saturday, when two gunmen forced a man to the ground in the 200 block of Tunbridge Road, also in Homeland. He was forced into the trunk of a getaway car but later escaped.

A third robbery occurred about 4:35 p.m. Saturday in the 600 block of Wyndhurst Ave. in Roland Park, where three gunmen approached their victim, demanded money, then escaped with a cell phone, credit cards and a handbag, police said.

Police have arrested a juvenile and charged him as an adult with multiple counts of armed robbery and using a handgun. They refused to name the suspect or provide details about his arrest.

Though no one was injured in any of the three weekend robberies, the cases were the topic of conversations throughout Roland Park and Homeland.

At Schneider Paint & Hardware Store in the 700 block of Wyndhurst Ave., owner Jeff Pratt said a customer who recently moved to Baltimore was upset about what had happened.

"I told her this is not the norm," Pratt said.

He noted that it would not be hard for suspects to escape the neighborhood unnoticed.

"A Ma and Pa Railroad right of way runs by Stony Run, and I'm sure those guys were gone in the woods," he said. "The cops were everywhere on Saturday afternoon. One officer asked about two silver guns."

At the nearby Menagerie gift shop, the owner took the unusual precaution yesterday of locking the shop's door during business hours.

"It doesn't frighten me personally, but it is unsettling," said Margo McClellan. "We are still reeling from the sniper."

One of the victims received a call from Mayor Martin O'Malley, after the man sent his office an impassioned e-mail shortly after he was robbed Saturday.

"He expressed concern for my family and my well-being and the ordeal we've been through, and he assured me that the police were doing everything they could do," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "I was pleased that he called."

O'Malley said he could empathize with the victim because his wife had been the victim of an attempted carjacking.

"The fact of the matter is, crime is a problem throughout the United States, and I don't know that moving away from it addresses the problem," said O'Malley, who noted in an interview yesterday that crime has dropped 28 percent in Baltimore since 1999. "Some of us are lucky enough to live in neighborhoods where this is a rarity, but we're all in this together. It can affect any one of us."

In addition to last weekend's robberies, police are still investigating the July 31 robbery of a woman at a Roland Park automated teller machine. The victim was forced into a trunk and driven around town. She escaped by using her cell phone.

No arrests have been made in that case, and police said they do not believe that abduction is related to the weekend crimes.

Anyone with information on the crimes should call 410-367-3105 or 410-396-2455.

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