When two men entered the Maryland National Bank branch i Owings Mills yesterday with a note demanding cash and stating they had a weapon, it was the fourth bank holdup in Baltimore County in less than 24 hours.
"They come in spurts," said Sgt. Finbarr Murphy of the county robbery squad. "The past three days have not been good."
In the first three months of 1993, there were slightly more bank robberies than in the same period last year -- 18 compared to 15.
But in the last six weeks alone, there have been 13 more bank holdups.
"We've been hit pretty good," said E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman.
Baltimore County isn't alone. Bank robberies in the city are running at four times last year's rate, and FBI officials say the state is well on its way to topping last year's total of 209 -- the worst ever.
County police were stymied by the robbers who struck over the last two days and are at a loss to explain the recent surge.
Yesterday, for instance, two banks were robbed -- one in Owings Mills and one in Perry Hall. In each case, police thought they were close to arresting the robbers but came up empty-handed.
At 12:18 p.m., a robber described as a black man, wearing a blue surgeon's mask and carrying a pair of boots slung over his shoulder, robbed the Bank of Baltimore branch in the 9600 block of Belair Road in Perry Hall.
He handed a teller a note that said he had a weapon and demanded cash. Witnesses said he fled in a red Toyota or Ford Mustang driven by another black male.
Other witnesses told police they saw the suspected getaway car driving in circles in the Seven Courts area off Joppa Road, apparently lost. Police combed the area but never found the suspects.
At 12:52 p.m., two men robbed the Maryland National Bank branch in the 10200 block of Reisterstown Road.
Police nabbed two suspects across the street from the bank, and a witness identified one positively but then changed her mind, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, another police spokesman. Police let the men go after questioning.
On Tuesday, a Maryland National Bank branch in Rodgers Forge was robbed at lunchtime, as was the First National Bank branch in the 700 block of Frederick Road in Catonsville.
A few minutes after the Rogers Forge robbery, police recovered some of the stolen money, along with a dye pack, on a side street nearby. Two suspects fled in a silver pickup truck.
Sergeant Doarnberger said police don't think the most recent robberies are connected or the work of an organized ring. However, they do believe the man who robbed the Bank of Baltimore branch in Perry Hall is the same man who robbed a Signet Bank on Belair Road in Perry Hall last month.