Mirroring nation, county robberies on rise

February 02, 2007|By Nick Shields | Nick Shields,Sun Reporter

Shay Anderson remembers being on the phone in the store's office when a man walked in, flashing a gun. He didn't say a word, but Anderson, the 36-year-old assistant manager of a Dollar Tree in Rosedale, knew what he wanted.

While about two dozen unsuspecting customers shopped, Anderson and the robber walked to a nearby cash register, where the gunman snatched more than $300 and fled.

Anderson had become another robbery victim, one of a growing number in Baltimore County.

Last year, more than 1,300 robberies occurred in Baltimore County, the highest tally since 1997, according to preliminary county police statistics.

After robberies fell by almost 17 percent in 2003, the number has steadily increased each year since then, according to county police statistics.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, said the increase in Baltimore County mirrors a national trend.

"Robbery," Wexler said, "is the single most accelerated violent crime in the country."

From January to June 2006, robberies nationwide had increased by 9.7 percent from the same period in 2005, according to preliminary FBI statistics.

Robberies increased in Baltimore City and in most of the surrounding counties, according to statistics.

Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman, said police aren't sure why robberies are increasing in the county. He said robberies decreased during the second half of last year, when the department began analyzing patterns and stationing officers near likely targets.

Four early-morning supermarket robberies last year in Arbutus, Rosedale, Woodlawn and Reisterstown led police to stake out a Super Fresh in Perry Hall Square Shopping Center on Dec. 14. There, undercover police spotted two men trying to rob the store, police said. Two men were arrested, and a third died after exchanging gunfire with police. One officer was injured.

"We watched robbery trends and made sure officers were patrolling areas where [robberies] were most likely to happen," Toohey said.

About a quarter of robberies in the county occurred in two precincts, Woodlawn and Wilkens, according to the statistics. Woodlawn led all county police precincts with 233 robberies.

Since 2001, the number of juveniles involved in Baltimore County robberies has almost doubled, according to statistics. From January to June 2006, 282 juveniles were arrested for robbery. Of those arrests, 129 involved a firearm, according to the preliminary statistics.

More than 100 more robberies from January to June of last year involved a firearm, compared to the same period in 2005, statistics show.

The increase in the use of firearms in crimes overall in the county prompted county police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan to form a Violent Crimes Unit.

The unit, scheduled to begin operations this month, will investigate nonfatal shootings and violent assaults, officials said.

Anderson, the Dollar Tree assistant manager, said that since the robbery she has been taking extra precautions. She watches her surroundings, locks the office door and makes certain that no large cash amounts are stashed in registers.

Police suspect that the man who robbed the Dollar Tree store is also responsible for other robberies in the area. They would not identify him but said a warrant has been issued for his arrest.


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