Follow-up: No report taken in Simply Marie's burglary attempt

August 08, 2012|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

A burglary at Marie Branch's breakfast restaurant in Canton spooked her enough that she scrapped her popular late-night hours. But it wasn't enough to get police to write a report of the incident.

The break-in occurred June 30 at Branch's restaurant, Simply Marie's, and gained notice this week when Orioles center fielder Adam Jones tweeted about it, calling it "disrespectful." Branch said in an interview that she saw a man with a knife cutting through the screen of a back door, and called police, who she said searched a nearby park for a possible suspect.

She said the incident shook her enough that she decided it was no longer safe to be open so late.

"Me and my family are scared," Branch said. "It's not worth being open all night and putting my life in jeopardy for some dollars and some biscuits."

Police initially said they had no record of such a crime. The city's OpenBaltimore website, which allows residents to map crime in their neighborhoods, also showed no burglaries on her block, the 3000 block of Elliott St.

Records from the agency's dispatch system, however, confirmed that Branch had called 911, reporting a man cutting through her screen. The records showed that the responding officer coded the call "Frank-no," which is police code for "call abated."

Sgt. Anthony Smith, a police spokesman, said the department didn't have an explanation for why a report wasn't taken and that commanders had begun an investigation. "A report should have been written," he said.

The failure to take a report is notable for several reasons. The incident wasn't reflected in the district's list and maps of crimes, which can affect officer deployments. And the description of what happened wasn't relayed to other officers as something to watch for.

It's difficult to know how often police don't document calls, but police have noted in the past that they have a review process to ensure that reports are properly classified.

Robert F. Cherry, the Baltimore police union president, released a 15-page report last month covering areas that need improvement, according to union members. Among them was the low priority for nonviolent crimes, particularly "quality of life" crimes.

"While we've rightly focused on violent crime, the department has to continue to look at other crimes that matter," Cherry said. "We need to create a culture within the department that we treat all crimes for what they're worth. It's not just about guns."

The lack of a report for the Simply Marie's burglary didn't sit well with Branch, who said four officers had responded to her business that morning and searched for a suspect. She looked for an account of the crime in the Baltimore Guide, a weekly newspaper that compiles a police blotter for incidents in Southeast Baltimore, and wondered why it wasn't there.

"They didn't write a report the night they came here?" Branch said Wednesday. "See, that's terrible. That's not good. That is not good. They were here for a whole hour."

She said one of the officers later returned for breakfast.

Branch opened the Southern-style restaurant about two years ago, and late-night meals became her selling point. It was open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, then reopened from midnight to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays to bridge the bar crowds to the morning rush, offering such foods as French toast platters and chicken and waffles.

Branch said she hasn't had any other problems related to crime, but as of Aug. 1 she switched up the weekend hours, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 3 p.m.

Jones, for his part, tweeted that he is "still a supporter. Bomb food."

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