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Annapolis wary after 'rough month' of crime

THE BALTIMORE SUN

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

She is not exactly 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 on the whole 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 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.

Crimes of opportunity

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."

Sighs of relief

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 walking from her car to her house, two drive-by shootings in Eastport and a stabbing in Parole, among other incidents.

Banding together

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 - a car that slowly drives past their houses several times, a man walking down the street with a television on his shoulder, a prostitute walking on West Street.

"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.

"Nothing is 100 percent," he said.

'A little jaded'

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. "It's not my personality.

"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," he said.

Pizzoferrato said he had told Scally there was nothing to worry about when they went for a walk that night.

When the gunman approached, Scally said, "I remember thinking, 'I can't believe this is happening again.'"

She believes one of the thieves in that incident took part in the first robbery.

During the robbery, Pizzoferrato said, he asked for his dorm keys back, and one of the robbers returned them. The student didn't get his cell phone back, though.

"He was actually very polite," Pizzoferrato said.

'Freak' incidents

Shawn Mason, 19, of Annapolis, who was struck in the head last month with what he thinks was a 40-ounce beer bottle while walking with his girlfriend in State Circle, says he thinks the crimes lately "are just freak kind of incidents."

After all, Annapolis' three killings last year amounted to a 200 percent increase in homicides over the year before, when one occurred.

No matter what's been going on lately, some victims say, Annapolis is still no Baltimore.

Recent crimes in Annapolis

Aug. 3 - A 44-year-old man was robbed and beaten in the 1300 block of Tyler Ave. in Eastport.

Aug. 14 - A 47-year-old Annapolis man was robbed at knifepoint about 3 a.m. on Main Street near State Circle.

Aug. 19 - Two drive-by shootings were reported in Eastport. In the first, about 2 a.m., a house in the 1400 block of Tyler Ave. was shot at several times. One bullet went through an apartment living room, ending up in the bathroom, while the family was home. In the second shooting, about 3 a.m., a house in the 900 block of Madison St. was hit. No one was injured in either incident.

Aug. 21 - A 35-year-old Eastport woman was shot in the face in a botched robbery attempt by three men near Annapolis Marketplace Shopping Center.

Aug. 24 - A 39-year-old Annapolis man walking with friends was robbed of $200 by a person on a bike who pointed a gun at the man's back on State Circle near Francis Street about 1:26 a.m. - Two St. John's College students walking on College Avenue near St. John's Street about 1:30 a.m. were robbed by a man on a bike who pointed a sawed-off shotgun at them. - A Main Street waitress and a friend walking on Gorman Street were robbed at gunpoint at 11 p.m.

Aug. 25 - A 19-year-old Annapolis musician walking with his girlfriend near State Circle and Maryland Avenue was hit on the back of his head with a glass bottle by someone in a group of men about 11:30 p.m.

Aug. 26 - A 39-year-old woman was raped as she walked from her car to her Murray Hill house about midnight.

Aug. 29 - Two St. John's College students were robbed at gunpoint shortly after midnight on State Circle near North Street by two men.

Sept. 4 - A 42-year-old Parole man was stabbed in the face outside a liquor store in the 2100 block of Forest Drive about 9:25 p.m. He suffered a minor cut on his left jaw.

Sept. 6 - A 17-year-old girl was raped by a man she knew and had let into her house in Eastport.

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