Baltimore police target rise in robberies

The gunman held a small black revolver to the back of the man's head and demanded, "Give me what you got," according to the police report. He forced the victim to the pavement at Clement and Covington streets in South Baltimore, and took a wallet and cell phone.

A second man tried to yank rings from the fingers of the victim's wife. When they wouldn't budge, he told her, "This ain't a joke," and ordered her to remove her jewelry, according to police. As the assailants pedaled away on bicycles with a 1.7 karat diamond ring and a white gold wedding band worth a total of $22,300, the couple had to bang on Clement Street doors to summon help.

The attack came shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday as the couple walked home from a night out — and as officers across Baltimore were engaged in an enforcement campaign to combat the rising number of street robberies in many neighborhoods.

Police said more than 30 people were arrested in the weekend initiative, which targeted habitual offenders with open warrants and put officers in areas where attacks are most frequent. There have been 429 street robberies reported in the city through March 17, up from 369 during the same time in 2011.

"We've noticed there are certain communities that have had a spike in robberies, and we're responding," said Anthony Guglielmi, the city police spokesman. "In addition to more boots on the ground, we're taking 'frequent fliers' off the streets."

Those arrested last weekend included a woman who was picked up on a felony drug warrant and linked, police said, to a spate of armed holdups in Northwest Baltimore. Police also captured three suspects in an armed carjacking that occurred last week on Greenmount Avenue.

Police said they are still looking for a single suspect they believe robbed four people this year in the Mount Vernon area, including a Peabody Institute student on North Charles Street in January. They're also seeking two youths who held up a man in Mount Vernon on March 20 and took his wallet and cell phone.

Several high-profile robberies have drawn attention in recent months. In January, a Bolton Hill man was abducted at gunpoint in front of his home and taken in his car to bank machines to withdraw money. A month later, a 73-year-old civic leader and her companion were robbed outside the Petit Louis restaurant in Roland Park. No arrests have been made in those cases.

The commander of the Central District police station, Maj. Dennis Smith, plans to lead a community meeting Tuesday night in Seton Hill, where authorities will tell residents how to avoid being attacked, and how to get detailed descriptions if they are.

"Be self-aware," Smith said Monday. "Don't walk down the street with your head down in your iPhone, talking, texting and playing games. If you're not aware of what's going on around you, you're making yourself a potential victim."

Smith's district includes the Inner Harbor, downtown, Mount Vernon and Mid-Town Belvedere, the city's heaviest concentration of tourists and office workers, and an area packed with restaurants, theaters and nightclubs. It also includes the drug corridor along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Street robberies in the Central are up 49 percent — there have been 58 this year, compared with 39 last year — with most concentrated west of downtown, near and north of Lexington Market and the arena. Many of those crimes involve unarmed assailants who, Smith said, might punch an uncooperative victim or surround someone to intimidate him or her into submission.

The "weapon of choice," Smith said, is "usually a folding pocket knife." But, the police commander said, "any robbery is horrific for anybody."

There is no real pattern to the robberies, police said, but many occur in late afternoon and early evening, or around the time bars and restaurants close.

While street robberies are up, citywide statistics show that a category including commercial robberies and carjackings is down this year, compared with the same period in 2011. Hold-ups of stores and businesses dropped 34 percent, to 94 from 142 — and carjackings are down 32 percent, to 17 from 25.

Police involved in the stepped-up enforcement effort arrested people across the city, including two men and a woman charged in last week's carjacking on Greenmount Avenue in North Baltimore, on the boundary of the Abell and Better Waverly neighborhoods.

Court documents say that a woman approached the driver of a Ford Explorer as he waited at a light about 1:15 a.m., and asked for a ride. When he refused, police said she threatened him with a handgun, and she and three men climbed inside.

Police said they held a gun to the victim as he drove to Northern Parkway and then onto McClean Boulevard, where they robbed him of $135 and a phone before fleeing. Police said in court charging documents that they were able to trace the phone to a suspect's house, which they raided.

In Saturday's robbery of the couple at Clement and Covington streets, police said they charged Julien Rosaly, 22, and Nicholes Maultsby, 20, both of the 1100 block of Leadenhall St., with handgun and robbery counts. They live in Sharp Leadenhall, between Federal Hill and M&T Bank Stadium, a short bike trip from where the robbery occurred.

Police credited the couple with calling 911 almost immediately after the attack. The couple told police they had noticed the young men on bicycles nearby. As they turned onto East Clement Street, the male victim told police, a man came up behind him, pulled out a gun and put it to his head.

The gunman forced the man to the ground, took his wallet from his right rear pants pocket and a mobile phone from his front pocket. The report says the alleged accomplice then turned to the man's wife, and ordered her to the ground as well.

"Give me your jewelry," police quoted the attacker as saying. "This ain't a joke. I want your jewelry." Police said the man then grabbed the woman's hand "and attempted to remove her wedding rings. When the rings would not come off, the suspect told her to take off the jewelry."

Police said in a report that the man ordered the woman to dump the contents of her purse on the pavement, took her earrings and rings, and her $400 iPhone.

A patrol officer recognized the young men from having seen them riding their bikes through the Riverside neighborhood earlier in his shift, and the female victim picked one of the suspects from a photo array, according to charging documents. Police said they arrested Rosaly within an hour and picked up Maultsby later on Saturday.

"This was a tragic incident, but because the victims involved were good witnesses, took good note of the people robbing them, we were able to locate suspects and make an arrest," said Guglielmi, the police spokesman.

Police said they have not yet located the jewelry or other items that were taken.

The numbers

Robberies and other crimes (through March 17):

Street robberies: 429 in 2012, 369 in 2011

Hold-ups of businesses: 94 in 2012, 142 in 2011

Carjackings: 17 in 2012, 25 in 2011

Source: Baltimore Police Department

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