Annapolis store struck in $19,000 clothing theft

Johnson's pledged funds for crime-fighting effort

January 14, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

An upscale Annapolis clothing store that celebrated its 50th anniversary last month and recently pledged financial support for local crime-fighting efforts was the target of a burglary early Sunday in which about $19,000 in clothing was taken.

Police said about 50 pairs of pants, 68 sweaters, eight jackets and five leather bags were stolen from Johnson's On the Avenue, a store at the corner of Maryland Avenue and State Circle that caters to military men and high-end male shoppers.

"It's a tribute to the community that [Johnson's] felt the responsibility to say, `Hey, what can we do?'" Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said of the store's crime-fighting donation. "Which makes it kind of ironic that they were the recipient of a crime."

Johnson's was open yesterday, but two freshly installed padlocks and duct tape covering the front door's damaged lock were reminders of the burglary.

Around the corner, in display window No. 7, an oversized letter dated Sept. 27 from store president Jean Johnson Held details donations the store has made to law enforcement, including a pledge of $10,000 for a "to-be-determined project associated with crime prevention in the downtown retail district."

Johnson Held and general manager Herb Cummins were unavailable for comment yesterday, and employees working at the store said they could not comment on the burglary or the donations.

Other Maryland Avenue store owners said they have seen a rise in crime incidents over the years in the area, the most serious of which was September's fatal carjacking of Straughan Lee Griffin in front of his home on nearby Cumberland Court.

"It's scary when you hear about these things happening around you," said Annebeth Bunker, president of Maryland Avenue and State Circle Association and owner of an entertainment and specialty foods store on Maryland Avenue.

Bunker's store, Annebeth's, was held up at gunpoint about three years ago; since then, she and other owners have been seeking additional police patrols.

"It seems like police are always at City Dock and around Main Street more than they are here," she said.

Officer Hal Dalton, a spokesman for the Police Department, said officers "are aware of the most recent crime and patrol as much as possible. Given that it's a dense business area, Maryland Avenue gets extra police presence anyway."

Lynda Anne Carey Dando, an antiques dealer who works at Evergreen - a store she once owned - said her wallet was stolen in September when she stepped out to grab a cup of coffee next door.

"I have never left without locking the door since then - no matter how short a time I'm gone," Dando said.

That theft occurred the same week that Griffin was killed. Two teen-agers have since been arrested and indicted for first-degree murder in Griffin's death.

"It just makes you think, `Who is down here doing these things?'" Dando said, shaking her head.

Griffin's death prompted Johnson's to donate money to law enforcement in honor of the store's 50th anniversary, the letter in the store window states.

Other information below the letter reads that $14,775 has been earmarked for a police dog trained to uncover narcotics, 10 ballistic vests and four medical supply vests for medics on the Annapolis Special Emergency Team (ASET).

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