Hudson's Corner: Despite rash of bike thefts, Roland Park is one of city's safest neighborhoods

We live in one of the safest neighborhoods in Baltimore, as reiterated by representatives of the police and fire departments at the Roland Park Civic League's meeting Sept. 6.

That is always reassuring to hear. A recent rash of brazen bike thefts has left many neighbors on edge and confused about how best to follow up with Northern District police. Several residents have called, for example, to find out how to look at police photos for possible identification of the suspects in the theft of 23 bikes in a recent four-week period.

The thieves sometimes took the bikes while residents were at home. At one house, they took them from the screened porch with the family and the family dog just inside.

At another home, the thieves broke though the basement door. At another, they kicked in a garage door. At a fourth house, they smashed garage windows.

It is hard to know how these thieves knew which garages to vandalize. I am wondering now if humans, and not the deer I originally suspected, knocked down our deer fence one recent morning. No plants were eaten. One large container was knocked over, as if it had been kicked when someone walked away from the garage, where no bikes have been for years.

A police officer at the civic league meeting reported that a patrol car has been assigned to the area and is cruising side streets and alleys, as well as Roland Avenue. He reiterated the need for neighbors to call 911 when they see anyone suspicious.

It has always been confounding why some will not pick up the phone and call the police, even when they see unusual characters in alleys, walking from a neighbor's house with a television set, or entering a neighbor's yard. The officer said that with a block watch number, residents' names are not attached to calls, and officers do not come to the house of the caller.

Block watch numbers may be obtained by calling the Northern District. The civic league should also send a link to the form for obtaining a number in the next electronic communication and repeat it in the next newsletter.

I am tempted to get one. On a recent Sunday night, we saw someone suspicious walking in the alley farther up Roland Avenue. I called 911, but I have no idea what happened after that.

The police officer at the meeting also urged residents to write down bicycle serial numbers and to borrow from Northern District the tool to engrave driver's license numbers on bikes and other property. Many bicycles, televisions and computers are found, but the police have no way of knowing whose they are.

The fire department representative at the meeting listed station improvements the civic league is working to facilitate: air conditioning on the second floor, a renovated bathroom and possibly a new roof. Discussion followed about whether the new roof should remain slate or switched to a less expensive material.

If the city had a reputable slate contractor on its list, that contractor might be able to preserve the architectural integrity of the historic fire station and shopping center by keeping it slate. Many homes as old as the fire station have had flashings replaced and slate roofs repaired rather than replaced.

He also mentioned the decrease in serious fires, since most homes have security systems with heat sensors and smoke detectors. May we all keep them up to date and check on elderly neighbors to be sure theirs work.

Even in a secure neighborhood, crimes happen and lives can be lost. Those living here awhile certainly remember the child who died after being struck while crossing Cold Spring Lane and the two lost five years ago in a fire.

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