Suspects arrested in robberies

Northern District Commander Maj. Kimberly Burrus, seen here sitting outside district headquarters Aug. 1, said five juveniles and one adult have been arrested in a string of cellphone robberies and muggings, and that another juvenile suspect is still on the loose. (Photo by Nicole Martyn / August 1, 2013)

A citywide surge in street robberies that has hit north Baltimore especially hard appears to have ended — for the moment, at least — with the arrests of five juveniles and one adult, including the suspected ringleader, and one more juvenile suspect being sought, police and city officials said.

"I think we're hopeful that this particular siege we're under may be over," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who hastily arranged a meeting Friday with 30 community leaders and Maj. Kimberly Burrus, commander of the police department's Northern District. But Clarke said Saturday that the most recent robbery linked to the suspects in custody was committed just two days earlier.

"We won't know until next week whether we're getting a reprieve," Clarke said.

The media first reported three juveniles were in custody in connection with a recent rash of cellphone robberies of joggers and pedestrians, but Burrus told the Messenger on Saturday it was five juveniles and one adult, with one of the juveniles captured on Friday. Police are still looking for one more juvenile suspect, she said.

Burrus said police citywide have taken several steps to combat the rash of crimes, including implementing an "all out" strategy last Thursday, in which all police officers were placed on patrol, except for those who are on desk duty for medical reasons. She also said the city police department's "Foxtrot" helicopter was assigned to patrol north Baltimore Thursday and Friday, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., mirroring the time of day when most street robberies happened.

The helicopter will be back in the area Monday and Tuesday, but the "all out" policy will not be repeated, Burrus said.

"That's not something we can sustain on a regular basis" wit the police department's current manpower, she said.

Clarke said her understanding is that the police department's Regional Auto Theft Task Force will step up traffic stops of suspicious cars. Police spokesman Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk said earlier last week that the suspects were believed to have driven around in stolen vehicles, looking for victims with cellphones out.

But Burrus said the task force's involvement is not new and that the task force helped find one stolen car linked to the robberies and helped to develop and identify several of the suspects

Police say the suspects are linked to more than 20 recent cellphone robberies and two carjackings, mostly in north Baltimore. Police believe the suspects are behind 12 crimes in the Northern District, six in the Northeastern District and several in the Southeastern District.

Earlier last week, police held a news conference saying they would beef up patrols in response to a spike in robberies in city neighborhoods, including Roland Park, Little Italy and Fells Point. Robberies were reported recently in Wyman Park, Hampden, Remington and Butchers Hill, too.

At least four people jogging or walking the morning of Aug. 2 reported being assaulted and robbed after being boxed in by two vehicles — at least one of them stolen.

Kowalczyk said detectives are exploring possible links to other crimes, including the shooting of 36-year-old Zebadiah Drinkwater, who was wounded Aug. 14 in the 4000 block of Roland Avenue, on the border of Hampden and Roland Park, while helping a friend to her car. But Burrus said it is unclear whether that case is linked to the others for which the suspects are in custody.

Although the shooting occurred in the same area as some of the other crimes, police "don't have anything to suggest that it's one and the same," Burrus said.

Beaten and robbed

Richard Gilmore told police he was out for a run on Wyman Park Drive in Remington when he was beaten and robbed Aug. 14.

The same day, in the 4000 block of Roland Ave, two people approached Drinkwater, who was shot during a robbery attempt in the early afternoon. He was taken to an area hospital and listed in stable condition, police said.

Two more north Baltimore robberies in early to mid-August were reported by Johns Hopkins University security officials. Both occurred during predawn hours and involved nearby getaway vehicles, officials said.

On Aug. 15, a JHU affiliate was walking east in the 200 block of Wyman Park Drive when a juvenile pulled her to the ground and stole her purse. The juvenile and two others, who were walking ahead of the victim, then were seen by witnesses fleeing in a car that police said was stolen and used in an earlier robbery. The victim had abrasions on her legs and was treated at the scene by Baltimore City medics, according to a JHU incident report.

On Aug. 11, according to another JHU report, a graduate student was walking northbound in the 3600 block of Greenway Avenue when he was knocked to the ground from behind by three assailants, who took his cell phone, wallet, and backpack, then fled in a white or silver SUV.