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Residents swap accounts of rash of robberies in North Baltimore

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Hampden resident Teresa Sprucebank was rattled enough when she returned home Friday night to find out that a group of teens had kicked in her front door and made off with thousands of dollars worth of valuables.

The fact that they returned later in the evening — her husband scared them off — only made her more unsettled.

Sprucebank, 55, is one of at least three North Baltimore residents who say police told them they were victims in a rash of robberies, carjackings or burglaries committed by young people starting Friday night.

“I feel like I’m in a prison,” Sprucebank, who has lived in her home for more than 30 years, said in an interview. “I know that will go away, but that’s how I feel right now.”

The incidents continued with reports of gunpoint robberies in Mount Washington on Sunday night, and a morning break-in in Woodberry Monday morning. Word of the incidents has spread over social media, community websites and emails.

Residents said police made arrests in the Woodberry break-in, though the department did not respond to requests for information about that or other reported weekend incidents.

Elizabeth Pittman, a Mount Washington resident, wrote to The Baltimore Sun and said she and her neighbors were swapping their own accounts in light of a lack of official information from police.

“Obviously, armed robberies are very concerning, especially when they occur so brazenly,” Pittman wrote. “… While we accept a certain amount of property crime as a given living in the city, armed robberies are truly shocking.”

On a Mount Washington listserv, a woman said she and her husband returned from a trip to Whole Foods Sunday night and were unloading groceries when “in a flash, there were 3 or 4 young men in front of us, one with a gun aimed at my throat.”

“They wanted money, our phones and the keys to the car. I just handed over my purse,”, said the woman, whose account from the private listserv was shared with The Sun with her approval. She told her neighbors that one of the teens took off in her car as the others piled into a getaway car, a nondescript white four-door vehicle.

When police arrived, the victim said officers had another robbery victim in the back seat of their car. She said the officers told her there had been multiple incidents on successive nights. The woman asked not to be identified because she is the victim of a crime that has not been solved.

The Mount Washington victim said using her iPhone’s phone finder app, her family was able to help police track down the car — which contained her purse as well as other purses belonging to additional victims.

On Monday morning, residents in the Woodberry area were discussing an incident in which young men kicked in the door of a home on Girard Ave. Joyce Morgan King, who runs a Facebook crime page for her neighbors in the 21211 zip code, posted real-time updates after her husband witnessed the incident from a nearby residence.

Elizabeth Jones, a 23-year-old teacher, lives in the home but wasn’t there at the time of the break-in. She said officers told her they apprehended the suspects after a chase that involved the police helicopter.

”It’s weird to think about someone being in your house,” she said. “But police did an awesome job, and our neighbors were so awesome. It made me feel almost safer in that neighborhood.”

King said she started the Facebook group, which is a closed group but has 970 members, because a general neighborhood page was being consumed by postings about crime. She said the page makes it easier for residents to share information about crime.

“If not for this group, they may not know what is going on and they will let their guard down,” King said. “Information is powerful and essential to protect one’s self.”

 jfenton@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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