This Resident Has No Problem With Police

Crime Scenes

August 07, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,

The Internet bulletin boards in Baltimore's Bolton Hill neighborhood are filled with horror stories about crime - "another break in and robbery," or "another burglary," or even one titled "totally out of hand." People complain about violence, inaction by uncaring officers, reports not taken, arrests not made.

So the recent posting by Joan Smith stands out.

She was mugged on Mosher Street on July 21, a little after 5 in the morning, while cutting through the neighborhood to walk from her home in Reservoir Hill to the train station.

"In less than two weeks, police officers arrested the individual who is responsible," Smith wrote.

She described the investigating officer, Charles J. Corbin Jr., as professional, courteous and quick.

Her note surprised even the police, jaded not only by seemingly relentless crime but also by relentless criticism.

This is, after all, the same neighborhood where an officer failed to write a report on an attack of a nanny and described the violent daylight mugging as a larceny instead of an aggravated assault, a misstep that contributed to the district commander's ouster.

Joan Smith has no complaints.

"I think they did a superb job," she said in an interview. "I was rather astonished that they solved this case so quickly. ... I assumed that the police were so overburdened - I mean, let's face it, I was mugged, it wasn't an armed mugging, thank God - and I figured with everything going on, it's not that they would ignore it but I thought it wouldn't be a high priority."

Smith, who is 51, moved to Reservoir Hill from Alexandria, Va., five years ago. But she still works a government job in the Washington suburbs and was headed there July 21. Her car was in the shop, so she decided to walk to Penn Station.

A man came up behind her on Mosher Street near Jenkins Alley and grabbed her bag. "I was holding on for dear life," Smith said. The man jerked the bag off her shoulder and swung it around, hitting her in the face. "I started screaming bloody murder," she said, and neighbors quickly turned on their outside lights, lighting Mosher Street "like a Christmas tree."

Smith ran after the man and saw him get into a brown vehicle and speed away with her purse containing train tickets, money, credit cards, her checkbook, her cell phone and a partially read book titled "The Coming Plague," leaving her hanging on the part dealing with swine flu.

She wrote down the vehicle's license plate number.

A week later, Corbin called her and said they had arrested and charged Harold L. Moore, 30, of Brooklyn, with theft, assault and robbery. Police said they tracked Smith's cell phone to Moore, who they said was standing near a brown Oldsmobile Bravia that belonged to his girlfriend. Smith said she identified the suspect from a photo lineup.

Back when Smith lived in Alexandria, she said, someone stole her wallet from her purse at a restaurant.

She chased a girl to the street and, just as she did in Baltimore, got the suspect's license plate number. She turned that information over to Alexandria police, she said, but "nothing ever came of it. I never got any phone call. I never got any follow-up."

The mugging in Baltimore turned into a better experience. Of course, Smith said, "I wish I wouldn't have had the experience at all."

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