Yolanda Lowe's son and nephew were robbed at gunpoint while walking through Northeast Baltimore, she says, but for days there was no record that such a crime had occurred.
That's because two patrol officers wouldn't take a report and asked her to take back the allegation, Lowe said, because she was uncomfortable having her 16-year-old interviewed by detectives at the district station, rather than at their home.
"If you're not going to speak to the detectives, then there's no crime committed," she says the officers told her. The call was "unfounded," meaning no crime occurred.
Police said the incident was not handled correctly and they are investigating what happened, including why she was also unable to file an internal affairs report. Officers took a report after The Baltimore Sun asked about the incident.
Police said a crime victim does not have to consent to an interview at the police station for a report to be made. "When a crime has been reported, a report should be written," said Sgt. Sarah Connolly, a department spokeswoman.
So far this year, police statistics show robberies are down 21 percent citywide, with 356 robberies reported through Feb. 8 compared with 451 at the same time last year.
Because records are not kept outlining why cases are deemed "unfounded" in the field, it's impossible to determine how often cases like Lowe's occur. But observers say cases like it raise questions over how police handle calls.
David Miller, president of the Urban Leadership Institute, said many residents would be concerned about being asked to get into a police car and go to the station to have their report documented.
"Often the neighborhoods that you live in determine the style of policing that you will get," Miller said. "If their house was broken into in Roland Park, they wouldn't have to go to the closest precinct. They're not going to prolong the trauma, make them stop what they're doing. It would be filed right then and there."
Broadly, Miller said a distrust of police deters many people from reporting crimes in the first place. He pointed to a friend who owned a barbershop and who was robbed, and did not call police because he didn't think it would be taken seriously by police and he could handle it himself by better securing the business.
Councilman Bill Henry, who represents Lowe's neighborhood, said he occasionally hears complaints from residents outlining a problem that they have not called police about. But he has not heard complaints of officers refusing to take reports.
"I hope the [district] major is taking care of her and her kids personally," Henry said.
Lowe said her son was walking with his cousin through an alley near the intersection of Loch Raven Boulevard and East Belvedere Avenue when a man with a gun stole his phone, his iPod, his wallet and his keys.
When she got home, they called police and two uniformed patrol officers from the Northeastern District came to the home. She said the officers told her the boy was required to be interviewed by detectives at the station by an investigator in the District Detective Unit, which investigates shootings, robberies and serious assaults. They told her that without that level of cooperation, they couldn't write a report.
"To me, they made it seem like he wasn't a victim, he was the perpetrator," she said.
The officers asked her son to say that no crime had been committed, and so he did, Lowe says. The officers got on the police radio and told a dispatcher to cancel the call.
Lowe doesn't know whether police can catch the suspect, but she wants a record of the incident so police know what crimes are being committed and where, as well as a record that the robber took her son's keys and ID.
"I just think they handled it wrong," Lowe said.