Dixon decries plaza crime

Harris killing, station robbery prompt security crackdown

October 09, 2008|By Annie Linskey and Justin Fenton | Annie Linskey and Justin Fenton,annie.linskey@baltsun.com and justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Mayor Sheila Dixon yesterday questioned the follow-up investigations of crimes in the shopping center where a former city councilman was killed last month and said officials plan to announce a crackdown on shopping center owners to hold them accountable for crime that occurs on their premises.

Police disclosed this week that the bullets recovered from the scene of a robbery and shooting that killed Kenneth N. Harris Sr. appear to have been fired from the same gun used in a January incident in the Northwood Plaza. Police classified the earlier incident as a property crime rather than an attempted robbery, limiting the follow-up investigation.

In that crime, two men wearing monkey masks entered a BP gas station and shot at a bullet-resistant door. And a July robbery at the New Haven Lounge jazz club followed a nearly identical pattern as the incident that resulted in Harris' death.

Asked about whether police accurately classified the BP crime, Dixon said, "Well, you know, you can't just look at the January case. You have to look at what happened in the Haven in July - a similar robbery - [and] the follow-up on both of those cases, along with some that happened in the general area."

"It is very clear that these individuals have been there before on a number of occasions. And that is why the city, in another week, we are going to be announcing some real crackdowns in these shopping centers ... and [holding] these owners accountable, because I know security can be a factor."

Dixon did not elaborate on the plan, though residents, community activists and elected officials have blasted the Northwood Plaza's management for what they say is insufficient security presence. Police have placed a mobile command center in the parking lot, but Dixon said investigators also need more help from the community.

"I think that the piece that was missing in the beginning and even now is someone in the community has to know something. And that is the piece that is quite disturbing, that people will not speak up," Dixon said. "It is very clear that these individuals have been there before on a number of occasions ... Police are doing everything in their power and hopefully will resolve it based on the additional evidence."

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