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Rough spell of street crime leaves Annapolis wary


St. John's College freshman Alethea Scally won't leave campus anymore.

She is not terrified of Annapolis' charming downtown streets, but she is resigned to not walking them. After being robbed twice within a week last month, the 20-year-old New Mexico native says, "I just don't feel safe."

More than a dozen people have been robbed or attacked since the beginning of August, some with sawed-off shotguns and 6-inch knives pointed at them just yards from the governor's mansion.

While Annapolis police say crime isn't significantly up, August was a rough month that saw drive-by shootings, assaults, muggings and rapes across the city, and an unusual number of robberies in the heart of downtown.

Police have responded with increased patrols and by issuing warnings to business owners, neighborhood watch groups and tourists to be extra careful.

St. John's College security officials and administrators have posted warnings to students on bulletin boards and are talking about buying students whistles.

"They can't hire a SWAT team, so I'm not sure what else they can do," Scally said.

Police say the recent violence highlights a misconception that the city known for its picturesque docks, cobblestone streets and historic buildings is crime-free.

"People think there's no crime here, because it's beautiful," said city Officer Eric Crane. "August was an especially rough month. It goes in cycles."

But Crane said crime on the whole is not worse. "A majority of the recent incidents were opportunistic," he said. "If we take away the opportunity by educating people, they can be easily prevented."

When Crane told a group of Murray Hill residents attending a crime-watch meeting last week that suspects had been arrested and charged in the downtown robbery spree and that no muggings had been reported there since, there were sighs of relief, applause and gasps of "Oh, good."

Three suspects have been charged in two of the robberies. They are Annapolis residents Wayne Maurice Parker, 17, charged as an adult; Jamal Adams, 18; and Rasoul Pashma, 26.

A few months ago, a week without a robbery was status quo. Last month, however, police also investigated reports of a 39-year-old Murray Hill woman raped by a stranger while walking from her car to her house, two drive-by shootings in Eastport and a stabbing in Parole, among other incidents.

Usually, crime-watch meetings are attended by a handful of block captains. But more than 15 residents showed up when Robert and Norma Worden advertised their Murray Hill neighborhood meeting with a flier reading "Feeling vulnerable with all the recent crime?" Almost all were attending for the first time.

Crane and other officers encouraged residents at the meeting to call about anything that seems suspicious.

"It may seem like a little thing, but it could really help," Crane said. He also advised residents to lock their doors, not carry large sums of cash, be aware of surroundings and walk in groups - altering the conventional advice about walking in pairs because many of the mugged victims were in pairs.

Scally, for one, says she's a little leery about safety tips. "I was walking with someone both times. So, I'm a little jaded," she said.

A friend who was with her when the second robbery occurred is unshaken. "I'm not really worried," said Justin Pizzoferrato, a 19-year-old St. John's freshman from northeast Connecticut. "I know these things can happen anywhere, but I didn't figure it would happen right by the governor's mansion with the state police about 30 seconds away."

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