Proving that anyone can be the victim of car theft, state police troopers spent yesterday searching for thieves who stole two patrol cars Tuesday night.
It remained unclear yesterday whether the thefts - one in Baltimore, the other in Baltimore County - were related, said Lt. Bud Frank, a state police spokesman. "Our evidence collection team did find latent prints in the car," he noted.
It will likely take several days before police are able to compare them with fingerprints in the state and federal databases, Frank said. "Unlike on [the TV show] CSI, it doesn't happen during a commercial break," he said.
The first patrol car, an unmarked 1998 Ford Crown Victoria, was stolen about 9 p.m. from the parking lot of Frederick Douglass High School in Northwest Baltimore. An off-duty sergeant who works as an investigator in Annapolis had parked it there while he attended an event at the school, state police said.
Baltimore County police found the vehicle about seven miles away. It was abandoned and had been crashed into a fence near a house in the 6200 block of Liberty Road, just north of the city line, a few minutes after it was reported missing, police said.
Another patrol car - this one marked - was parked in the 6600 block of Liberty Road on Tuesday night while an off-duty corporal from the Golden Ring barracks attended a church event nearby, said Frank. It was stolen a few minutes after the first one was found and was recovered shortly before midnight.
The second vehicle was abandoned in an alley behind Bateman Avenue, near London Avenue in the Windsor Hills section of Baltimore. The engine was running when police found it.
A personal handgun that the corporal had secured in the car while he was inside the Christian Life Church also was found in the vehicle, Frank said.
Troopers are allowed to carry personal handguns that are smaller than their duty weapons, .40-caliber Berettas. And there are procedures for storing a weapon when a trooper feels it is inappropriate to carry it, Frank said, adding: "It appears the trooper elected not to carry his gun into a church."
The thefts are being reviewed to ensure that the sergeant and the corporal followed police procedures, Frank said. Both patrol cars were locked when they were stolen, he said.
The unmarked car was pried open on the passenger door and hot-wired, Frank said. "Some law enforcement officers would find this embarrassing," he said, adding that the thefts suggest a certain amount of brazenness. "But we're all human. Even police can be victims of crimes."