Howard County Police have increased police presence along the Route 29 footbridge in Columbia after two robberies were reported in a span of less than 25 days.
At approximately 9 a.m. on Nov. 12, a man was walking along the lakefront side of the footbridge when he was robbed by two men, police said. The two men asked for a cigarette, than stole the man's iPhone and wallet.
About three weeks earlier, on Oct. 20, a woman walking along the footbridge around 8:30 a.m. was robbed by two men. The two men grabbed the woman's purse and, when she would not let go, the men reached into her pocket and stole her iPhone.
Police said it is unknown if the two incidents are related.
Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said that as a result of those recent cases, officers will make it a point to patrol the beat more regularly.
Llewellyn added that the increase will not change the number of officers on the beat.
When asked it the footbridge was considered a particular area of concern for police, Llewellyn wrote in an email: "It is a highly populated area. We have had six reports of robberies on the bridge in the last three years. There have been reports of stolen property being found on or near the bridge, so we do think criminals use it like other residents, to get from one side of Columbia to the other."
When asked when the decision to increase presence was made, Llewellyn said police increase patrols "as the need arises."
Llewellyn added that residents are not encouraged to walk across the pathway at night.
The county government looked into replacing the footbridge with a transit bridge, but ultimately concluded it would be too costly, following a study commissioned by the Howard Hughes Corp.
But supporters of the new bridge, part of a group called Bridge Columbia, estimate the county would only have to pay a small portion of $12 million to $15 million project, and are still pushing the new bridge.