Two women who had just had dinner robbed by a man who implied he had a gun outside a French bistro in Roland Park. Police swarm the neighborhood. Baltimore's top cop calls the victims directly and orders a commander to visit the restaurant to calm fears.
Too much attention from both the media and the cops? The victim thinks so. Sally Michel, who heads the board of directors of the Parks & People Foundation and is a well-known political insider in city politics, called to complain.
She had driven by Petit Louis Tuesday evening and saw nothing but television cameras. And they weren't there to record people talking about the $48 Poulet a L'estragon for two.
“This is ridiculous, with all the other things going on the city,” Michel told me. “I love that restaurant and I don’t want it to be damaged. It’s just some little old community volunteer and some little old principal, and we got robbed, and we’re doing fine. I don’t want this damaging the community that I love.”
Here is an interactive map of crime in Roland Park since 2007.
Stories have a way of feeding on themselves. It got attention because Roland Park is an upscale community in which violent crime is infrequent. The victims were innocents -- coming out of a restaurant from dinner and getting into their cars. One, Michel, was prominent. The police reacted with phone calls from the police commissioner and a visit by the commander. All that in turn sparked heightened media coverage.
In 2010, I wrote a column about another robbery in Roland Park, which a gunman stole an engagement ring from a young couple on Roland Avenue, three blocks south of Petit Louis. That crime didn't make the paper, getting overwhelmed by other crime. Read the column here.
Here are some stats to put this in perspective.
In the first 21 days of this year, the latest statistics available, police said 12 people in the Northern District — which includes Roland Park — were robbed at gunpoint or by someone who threatened to have a gun. That is down from 16 street robberies during that same time period in 2011.
Last year, police said 237 people were held up in North Baltimore, down from 246 in 2010. So far this year, 123 people have been held up across the city, compared to 121 at this time last year.
Here are some recent crimes in the blocks around Petit Louis:
11/23/11 — 4700 Roland Ave., street robbery
11/6/2011 — 4800 Roland Ave., auto theft
9/28/2011 — 5100 Roland Ave., street robbery
5/14/2011 — 4900 Roland Ave., larceny from auto
5/4/2011 — 4500 Roland Ave., burglary
1/27/2011 — 4800 Roland Ave., larceny
The robbery on Nov. 23 involved a man wearing a hooded sweat shirt and a white surgical mask armed with a toy black gun. Police said the victim got into her car when he approached about 12:30 a.m. Police said he pointed the gun at her and she gave up her purse.
As the man ran away, police said part of the plastic gun broke and fell to the ground. Police said they arrested a suspect.
There has been a series of armed robberies in the ciy lately -- a Peabody student held up at an ATM on North Charles Street in Mount Vernon and a man from Bolton Hill held up and forced to accompany his attackers to withdraw money from bank machines.