Rash of burglaries prompts special meeting in Roland Park

For the second time in less than three months, Roland Park residents Monday, Oct. 15 complained to Northern District police about a continuing rash of burglaries, many of them bicycle and motorcycle thefts.

Sparked by the recent death of a suspected burglar who fell off the roof of a house, the Roland Park Civic League held a special meeting with Northern District Commander Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper and other police officials to discuss the problem.

Before the meeting, Tapp-Harper joined about 25 residents on a walk to two sheds that have been burglarized in recent months.

Dr. Pio Poblete showed Tapp-Harper his garage in the 400 block of Woodlawn Road, where a neighbor witnessed Poblete's garage door being kicked in. Two bikes were stolen.

Cindy Paradies showed Tapp-Harper her shed in the 300 block of Woodlawn, where teenagers are believed to have cut the lock. She and her husband lost three bikes in the burglary, which was the second since they moved in three years ago.

Paradies, an affordable housing developer, said the couple put blinds on the shed's windows so would-be burglars couldn't see inside, "but it didn't" deter them, she said.

Following the walk, the crowd swelled to more than 40 people at the meeting at Roland Park Presbyterian Church, where league President Phil Spevak asked how many people had been victims of burglaries or other crimes in the past year. Most raised their hands.

It was the second time since August that Poblete told his story to the civic league.

"This is the first time I've thought, maybe I don't want to live in the city," Poblete said then. "I love it here. My kids go to school here."

Many residents at Monday's meeting complained that police investigated thefts, but never followed up or took fingerprints. Tapp-Harper said officers carry with them in their cruisers fingerprint kits, but aren't mandated to use them. Tapp-Harper said she would advise officers at roll call to do so.

Lt. John Cannon, who heads the Northern District's detective unit, urged residents to keep serial numbers of their bikes so that police can track them. Even if thieves try to scrape off the serial number, investigating officers are trained to spot that and investigate further.

But Cannon and Katie O'Hara, a community prosecutor in the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office assigned to the Northern District, conceded that such burglary cases are often lower priority.

"It's obviously going to fall well behind robberies and rapes," O'Hara said.

"Because of manpower and everything else, unfortunately, burglaries and garages aren't a high priority," Cannon said.

"But here we are now," said Roland Park resident Tim Burdette, who had three bikes and three motorbikes stolen on Woodlawn earlier this month.

Statistically, police have seen an uptick in burglaries — seven in the past 28 days, compared to five for the same 28-day period last year, said Capt. Richard Worley, who is Tapp-Harper's deputy in the Northern District. Year-to-date figures reveal 32 burglaries, compared to 22 for the same period last year, Worley said.

The difference this year is that residents are sensing the rash of burglaries lasting longer than usual, Spevak said.

"It's gone on longer and the number is more," he said.

In one of the most recent cases, a suspected burglar fell to his death from a third-floor balcony in broad daylight Oct. 1 after the homeowner saw him, police said.

As police responded to a call for a burglary in progress on the 4500 block of Roland Avenue, the 55-year-old man attempted to slide over the balcony and down the outside of the house, but lost his footing and fell 26 feet onto a concrete walkway, police said.

Paramedics found the man unresponsive and rushed him to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at early afternoon, police said.

The home had been broken into and ransacked, police said.

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.

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