Crime Scenes: Take a look at the crimes not reported

Take a look at the crimes not reported

August 28, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

It was the talk of Roland Park.

A couple was held up at gunpoint on a street in the middle of the day. The man brandished a silver handgun and covered his face with a ski mask. He stole a wallet, credit cards and a purse with the woman's diamond engagement ring, then sped away in a minivan.

It occurred Tuesday afternoon.

Steve Elkins picked up his morning newspaper the next day and saw no mention of the crime.

"For other parts of the city, the incident might not be newsworthy, but for low-crime and ostensibly 'safe' Roland Park it is surprising, and as a resident of the area, something I find disturbing," Elkins wrote me in an e-mail.

The Baltimore Sun did report the crime. Reporter Jessica Anderson tracked down the information and a story was published in the paper's final edition on Thursday and on baltimoresun.com. It was, for a time, the most-read story online.

Here's what else happened — just in Baltimore — on Wednesday:

•A 14-year-old girl was charged with pointing a silver revolver at two men and then shooting them when they laughed at her youthful appearance. One of the men died.

•A woman reported being raped at an Inner Harbor hotel.

•A man was shot outside his house while playing with his grandchildren.

•A man long suspected by police of being a major drug kingpin was indicted by federal authorities. He was involved in a case that included a kidnapping and a series of revenge attacks — a quadruple shooting at an appliance store and a cookout shooting that injured a dozen people last year.

•A police officer was fired for an episode three years ago in which he screamed at and pushed a 14-year-old who called him "dude" and ignored orders that he stop skateboarding at the Inner Harbor.

Readers routinely tell me they think we report too much crime in an effort to make the city look bad. Or that we purposely don't report crime to appease City Hall. Some also say we don't report the "right" crime. By that, I think people mean we reported a shooting in East Baltimore but not the break-in on their block.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy uttered a truism at a recent campaign stop: "All crime is relative."

The residents of Roland Park might not care that a drug dealer is shot in East Baltimore. What concerns them is the daylight street robbery and the loss of an engagement ring. There's nothing wrong with that prioritizing, but the question for us is how newsworthy that attack is in the context of crime across the city.

"Roland Park's summer crime spree continues unabated," is the headline on the Roland Park community association website. Residents describe the crimes on the site:

Bad news on Longwood and Club. Today at 1:30 p.m. on a bright afternoon, two thugs in a car robbed at gunpoint two Roland Park residents (in their early 30s) out for a walk.

I wanted to let you know that our house on the 4500 block of Roland Avenue was burglarized on Saturday. … We went out briefly, and the burglar kicked in the basement window.

As I put out my recycling this evening … I discovered that sometime in the last 24 hours our garage had been broken into.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III recently criticized the news media for selecting certain crimes to "blow out of proportion" and ignoring others he felt were more important. And the spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office complained that "we send out hundreds of press releases a year, and most of them do not see the light of day in your newspaper or other media."

And it's true.

But for all the complaints that the news media saturates readers and viewers with crime news, we actually report very little of what's publicly available and very little of what law enforcement agencies want us to publish.

Here are some items that didn't make the paper in the past week.

Maryland State Police arrested two suspects in an armed robbery at a pharmacy in Harford County; cops in Anne Arundel investigated a stabbing in Edgewater and made drug arrests in Glen Burnie; and cops in Baltimore County reported a home-invasion robbery in Pikesville in which guns and a grenade were stolen.

The Maryland U.S. attorney's office issued more than a dozen news releases this past week — convictions in carjackings, an indictment in a mortgage fraud scheme, a sentence for a man downloading child porn off the Internet and man convicted for running a $17 million Ponzi racket.

The city state's attorney's office issued a blizzard of news releases including ones of a man sentenced to 50 years in prison for trying to kill an officer, a man put away for 13 years for violating his probation, a man convicted of murder and a repeat offender getting 11 years for drug dealing.

And if that's not enough, the Department of Natural Resources Police publish their own blotter on their website, and you can read about a man charged in connection with a boating accident in Garrett County and a drowning in St. Mary's County.

This is just a tiny sample of a week's worth of crime news from just a handful of police agencies in and around Baltimore. And authorities have written one or two pages of details on each and every one of the above crimes, with far more information than can fit in this column.

What we try to do at this newspaper is put the crime in context, both in print and in the Crime Beat blog. People want to know about the gunmen going to prison, and they should know about a 14-year-old girl accused of shooting somebody who laughed at her.

But people also want to know when their neighbor's house gets robbed.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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