Howard police seek 'preppy burglar'

Well-dressed man caught on video

September 22, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

The bespectacled man looks young and eager.

Like an insurance salesman ready to get crazy with an actuarial table or two.

Dressed in a collared dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a red tie and gray pants, he's holding a piece of paper in his hands. He's in western Howard County, on secluded Browns Bridge Road, sparsely lined with large houses hidden by trees.

He's standing on someone's front porch at 10:24 in the morning, knocking on a storm door. The owner isn't home, but he's been burglarized before, so he has hidden a video camera to catch the next person who breaks in.

This will be that person.

Howard County police, as surprised by the quality of the video as they were by the way the man was dressed, quickly dubbed him the "Preppy Burglar." They released two videos Wednesday and have posted a $500 reward for help in his capture.

"I can't begin to explain why he's dressed the way he is," said Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. She said detectives aren't sure whether he broke into the house because he had the opportunity or whether he had dressed nicely to "create a ruse."

Police were reluctant to share many details. The house that was hit Sept. 14 is in the 7600 block of Browns Bridge Road, which is west of Fulton and south of Route 216 near the Montgomery County line. Police wouldn't release the exact address or the name of the owner, and calls to several houses on the street turned up nothing.

The first video, just shy of 50 seconds long and time-stamped at 10:24 a.m., shows the man standing on the porch and ringing the doorbell before knocking on the storm door. He then opens the storm door and knocks on the wooden, red door. Then he peers through one of three small windows. He glances down at the piece of paper in his hand, as if he's reading something official.

Llewellyn said the man then walked to the back of the house and forced his way in through a rear door.

He's next seen on the second video at 10:42 a.m. coming out of the house through the front door, wearing black leather gloves and holding an electronic item in his left hand, balanced against his leg. Police wouldn't say what it was, but it appears to be a computer printer.

The man carefully puts the equipment down on the porch and closes the red door. Then he closes the storm door and uses one of his gloved hands to swipe at the handle, apparently to remove fingerprints. He appears nervous and hurried.

He must have forgotten about any evidence he might have left behind when he knocked on the door and peered inside. Police wouldn't comment on whether they've collected any prints or any other evidence. Llewellyn said the equipment he is seen carrying out of the house was not the only item taken, but she wouldn't say what else was stolen.

Crooks throughout the country and throughout history have disguised themselves in various ways — there have been many incarnations of the so-called "gentleman bandits," generally well-dressed and polite as they hold up banks, and one man in Washington robbed a bank this summer armed with a potted plant rather than a gun. Criminals have covered their faces with masks of presidents and clowns.

Maybe the man in Howard County just wanted to look like a traveling salesman. Or a college student selling magazines. Or a survey taker.

Here's how Howard County police describe the man, and thus, describe preppy: A white male of average build between 20 and 30 years old with wavy brown hair and wearing glasses, a watch on his left arm, a light-colored collared dress shirt with sleeves rolled up, a red tie, gray dress pants, a black belt and dark gloves.

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