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Police to beef up patrols after a spike in street crime

ShootingsTheftJohns Hopkins University

Over a period of about five hours, a man was shot and two people were beaten early Wednesday in what police say is part of a surge in street robberies across the city.

A wave of these street robberies over the last few weeks fit similar patterns of young adults or juveniles targeting distracted people and stealing their cellphones, wallets and other valuables and fleeing in cars, police said. Some cases involve suspects flashing guns, making threats or assaulting or shooting victims, according to victims and police reports.

Police announced Wednesday that they are increasing patrols and deployments.

"We're very concerned as a city," police Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere said.

Overall robberies are flat across the city this year, compared with the same time last year, but street robberies are up 6 percent, the latest crime statistics show. Shootings are also up 14 percent.

News reports about beatings, robberies and related arrests this summer have been circulated among neighborhood associations, but at least one victim in Wednesday's attacks didn't think it would happen to him.

"I was talking to people in our neighborhood who had read about some of these incidents, and then to have one of them happen — it's scary," said Richard Gilmore, who was out for a run in his Remington neighborhood in North Baltimore when he was beaten and robbed.

Police say they have no evidence showing that the robberies are run by an organized group, but they did say that the crimes are well-planned. Young adults or juveniles accost victims while accomplices wait in nearby cars as getaways. The groups are targeting "distracted" people running, talking on cellphones or listening to music with headphones, Deputy Commissioner John Skinner said.

While he stressed that the street robberies are not concentrated in a part of the city, Skinner acknowledged that "there are several of those incidents that resemble that pattern" over the past week in the Roland Avenue corridor that straddles the neighborhoods of Hampden and Roland Park.

In the 4000 block of Roland Ave. at 1:42 a.m. Wednesday, police said, two persons approached a man walking a friend to her car and shot him during a robbery attempt. The victim was taken to an area hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, police said.

Police did not disclose the victim's name, but friends say he is Zebadiah Drinkwater, 36, and they pointed reporters to a website set up to help him financially. As of Wednesday evening the "Help Zeb with bills and stuff" campaign through gofundme.com had raised more than $1,700.

Police said the robbers were young adults. One of the men, they said, was black, of average height and weight between the ages of 18 and 23 with dark brown skin and shortly cropped hair with the sides faded. He was described as wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt with black lettering on the front in a "splatter print" style.

The other man was described as black with dark brown skin, average height and weight in his early 20s whose hair was tightly shorn or shaved. He was wearing a white tank top, police said.

About three hours later in the 500 block of Albemarle St. near Little Italy, police said, two men pulled up to a woman walking toward Fleet Street. One of them struck the woman on the right side of the face with what the victim believed was a handgun. They stole her cream-colored handbag, between $30 and $40 and her hotel work ID before fleeing in a light-colored car.

Police had no witnesses or surveillance cameras in the area, the police report said. The victim was treated for a broken wrist and a cut above her eye.

An hour and a half later, Gilmore, a library assistant, said he was running in the 400 block of Wyman Park Drive when he was assaulted. One of the assailants motioned as if he had a gun, Gilmore said, and the robbers shoved or tripped him, knocking his glasses off and breaking his shoulder.

The robbers fled with his cellphone and money clip in a four-door gray sedan, where two others had been waiting, Gilmore said.

Police said they began taking note of these street robberies on Aug. 2, when a group of men stole a vehicle in Waverly, then joined up with another group and cruised around North Baltimore, confronting at least four people and stealing cellphones from runners, police reports say. Police did not have an update on that case on Wednesday.

Two more North Baltimore robberies over the past eight days have been reported by Johns Hopkins University security officials. Both occurred during predawn hours and involved nearby getaway vehicles.

Baltimore Sun staff writer Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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