Baltimore, suburbs cope with unwelcome surge in robberies


Banks. Food markets. Convenience stores. Fast-food restaurants. Pizza delivery people. Service stations. Auto dealerships.

The list goes on.

Anyone and any business now seems to be fair game in the recent surge in robberies in Baltimore and its suburbs.

In Baltimore yesterday, the police reported robberies at the Capitol Savings Bank in the 400 block of North Charles Street; Rose Shanis Loans in the 300 block of North Howard Street; and at Shoe City in the 5600 block of The Alameda, where an employee was struck on the head with a handgun.

In Baltimore County, a bank in the Eastpoint Mall was robbed.

The increase in robberies comes at a particularly unwelcome time in Baltimore, where the police already face a steadily increasing homicide rate. Now, the city must put extra officers on the street to try to catch armed robbers -- many of whom, investigators theorize, may have recently taken to robbery in imitation of the shotgun gang linked to over two dozen holdups since Halloween in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

But the increase has been most dramatic in Baltimore County, where robberies are up more than 30 percent in the first six weeks of the year, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a police spokesman.

He said the thefts range from purse snatchings to bank robberies, another of which occurred just before 1 p.m. yesterday at Eastpoint Mall. Two men, one brandishing a handgun, robbed the Maryland National Bank branch in the shopping center in the 7800 block of Eastern Avenue and escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.

In the city, holdups are at about the same level this year as last year, but the police are getting more reports of robberies of commercial establishments, according to Dennis S. Hill, the police spokesman.

During January and February, robbers hit 18 fast-food restaurants, 10 grocery stores and 11 other establishments. Mr. Hill said the city averages about 150 robberies -- many of them muggings -- each month.

Some of the recent spate of robberies were linked to the shotgun gang, which appears to become more bold and violent with each holdup.

The police thought they had put an end to that gang last week with the arrest of six people, only two of whom have been charged with one robbery each. On Thursday night, county police had to contend with three major robberies, including one at the Holiday Inn in Pikesville where an employee was seriously wounded by suspects believed to be part of the shotgun gang.

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