Complaints Don't Stop At City-county Border


July 03, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,

Here are some crimes from recent police blotters:

* A dozen male juveniles "ordered the victim to the ground at gunpoint. The suspects took two cell phones and a wallet."

* "The victim was walking home from school when suspect tried to forcibly take a small book bag. The victim punched the suspect in the face and he fled on foot."

* Eight juveniles, one with a knife, demanded that a victim "empty his pockets" and when he refused, "the suspect kicked and punched the victim and took his wallet and cell phone."

These crimes, some by what could be described as roving packs of teens, occurred in the past few weeks on streets with names of Castle Drive, Loch Hill Road and White Oak Road, none of which appears in a Baltimore City street directory nor are anywhere near the Inner Harbor. All occurred in suburban Baltimore County, in the Towson Precinct, which stretches from Stoneleigh to Goucher and from Ruxton to Hillendale.

These three incidents are not unlike some of the recent spate of crimes in and around downtown Baltimore, where teens are being blamed for sometimes random, sometimes gang-related, attacks on tourists and others caught up in nighttime revelry.

But the suburbs are not immune from crime.

Ask Baltimore County Sgt. Chris Kelly, who supervises about 10 officers in the Towson Precinct, what is the most serious problem he faces, and he answers: "Juvenile issues."

He's got an old post-World War II-era community of brick duplexes off Loch Raven Boulevard with residents up in arms about drugs, though one arrest that put a youth on home detention for a month seems to have quieted things down. And he's got a daytime burglary problem in Ruxton, where secluded upscale homes make patrol difficult.

"It's beautiful landscaping," Kelly said as he drove on the winding, narrow roads of the community on Wednesday. "But it's hard to see if a window is broke because of all the bushes."

A morning spent on patrol with Kelly revealed calls for what turned out to be a false burglary alarm at a house on Stevenson Lane, a hit-and-run at a grocery store parking lot on Loch Raven, a suspicious vehicle with expired tags on Joppa, a man exposing himself at a bus stop on Goucher and a 20-year-old man from Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood found inside a vacant apartment on Kenlawn Court.

The complex manager had gone inside the apartment to get it ready for a rental when he saw the man coming out of a bathroom. He had gone inside with friends the night before to party and to trash the place, and he was the only one left. That earned him a trip to jail.

"We have crime," Kelly assured, while struggling to find much.

Baltimore residents who accompanied city officers on a community ride-along program last week raced to calls for kids with guns and were at car stops in which police found drug needles. But for all the action, there were plenty of calls for the more mundane arguments, dumped trash, break-ins and shoplifting.

Police in the city confront more homicides and more violence, and officers too often spend their shifts racing from call to call.

But the quality-of-life issues and complaints are similar in the county to that of any community anywhere, including the city, and don't end at the invisible jurisdictional border.

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