Would-be robbers learn the value of precision...


Would-be robbers learn the value of precision timing

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. There's a supervisor at the Crownsville Hospital Center -- make that a former supervisor -- who, judging by the police account of a failed bank heist, knows all about plans that go awry.

He also might have a thing or two to say about how hard it is to get good help.

It seems this supervisor, who was in charge of a job-training program at the mental hospital, had his eye on a Fort Meade bank. But, according to police, he needed help to pull the job.

He looked around and enlisted an acquaintance from the hospital. He enlisted one of the patients.

This patient recruited another patient to help out, and the supervisor supplied the would-be pair of bank bandits with a revolver and military fatigues. He gave them stolen license tags to put on a hospital van, gave them magnetic signs to cover the hospital logo on the van's doors, and tossed them the keys, police said.

Off went our two aspiring robbers in search of the riches contained within the Fort Meade Credit Union. It was a Friday afternoon in March. In fact, it was very late in the afternoon.

Sgt. Shelley W. Clemens of the Maryland State Police picks up the story.

She says the two mental patients, donned in fatigues, waited in the bank parking lot for just the right moment.

One said to the other, "Let's do it," Clemens says, but the other replied, "Let's wait 'til five 'til six."

The men had a gun, gloves and ski masks, everything you might need to rob a bank. But they apparently lacked a watch, which proved to be their undoing.

You see, while the men sat in the van and waited to make their move, a bank employee appeared and locked the door. The bank was closed. There would be no robbery this day.

The men returned to the hospital and, in time, the gun, the fatigues and other items stashed away were found. Under police questioning, the patients confessed to their roles in the plot and they, along with the hospital supervisor, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. All three are awaiting trial.

The supervisor was fired, Clemens said. A judge ordered psychiatric evaluations for the patients.

I'm sure the Orioles would like us to believe that all roads lead to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But southbound Ritchie Highway?

Only if you're Ferdinand Magellan.

Throughout the Baltimore area, signs have been sprouting on just about every major roadway, directing people to the new ballpark. Some include helpful arrows, so unsuspecting

motorists can be assisted on their path to South Baltimore -- where they'll end up parking a mile from the stadium and wondering why the heck they didn't use mass transit. Others tell motorists to turn to 530 AM for traffic updates.

The sign on southbound Ritchie, just south of Jones Station Road, falls into the latter category: a yellow sign urging that motorists listen to 530 AM, above an orange-and-black sign adorned with an ornithologically correct Oriole.

So is this sign meant to urge people to stop in their tracks, make a U-turn and hightail it to Camden Yards? Or does it mean to remind O.C. travelers that the real fun this summer is nowhere near a beach? Or is it meant to serve as a boon to business on Solomon's Island by sending Orioles fans with no sense of

direction all the way to Southern Maryland?

Or did some poor highway worker just get his signals crossed and install the sign backward.

According to a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, the answer is none of the above. Seems those signs are installed not merely to help direct Orioles fans to their roost, but also to inform drivers of road conditions everywhere: 530 AM announces all sorts of traffic info, from construction to beach traffic to whatever else one should know while driving the Free State.

Apparently, those ornithologically correct birds are not meant as directional signs, but simply as a reminder that O's info can be heard on 530 AM. Whether you're heading to the park or not.

But be warned: If you keep heading south, you'll be watching the Tidewater Tides play in Norfolk a lot sooner than you'll be seeing the Orioles.

Chris Kaltenbach

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