Taking a swig out of crime

Written by on November 28, 2012 in Crime, Featured - No comments

Major Bill Davis, fields questions from residents with Councilman Jim Kraft. Photo by Phyllis Fung

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Most would say that crime doesn’t pay, but on Monday night it did for Max’s Taphouse—in the upper room, around 100 residents attended a special meeting on crime in the greater Fell’s Point area, called by 1st District Councilman Jim Kraft.

Southeast District Major William Davis, in attendance with Southeast Lieutenant Melissa Hyatt and Detective Jenkins, noted that there have been 10 robberies in the area—which includes Fell’s Point, Upper Fell’s, Butchers Hill, and Fell’s Prospect—including five that occurred at commercial businesses.

“That’s our biggest pattern happening right now,” Davis said, adding that the five business robberies had similar circumstances and suspect descriptions.

“We believe they are the same suspects,” he said.

The most recent victims were the China House on Eastern Ave. and the Broadway Mart on S. Broadway. Both were robbed on the night of Sunday, Nov. 18. The previous week, on the evening of Monday, Nov. 12, robberies occurred at Scooter’s Seafood on Bank St. and the Van Gough Cafe at Gough and Ann. There was also an incident at the Rumba nightclub on S. Broadway.

Davis said that a “robbery,” in police terminology, is a theft of property involving physical harm or threat of physical harm. In four of the five robberies above, a silver handgun was used to threaten the victims.

Responding to a question from the audience, Davis said that though citywide crime is down for the year, robbery type crimes in the Southeast District are up 8 percent, though the previous year was historically low in robberies, he said.

“There have been about 30 incidents in the entire district for the year,” he said.

Davis updated residents on several cases that had occurred recently.

Recent cases
The sexual assault that was reported on the promenade in Fell’s Point at the beginning of the month remains unsolved.

“We have no other information than what was in the original report,” said Davis, though he added that officers were deployed on the promenade from Caroline St. to the Bay Cafe immediately after the assault, and an officer remains stationed at the wharf near the assault from 5-9 a.m. and 5-9 p.m.

In other instances, progress has been made. Davis said that a suspect who had committed several robberies had been identified thanks to surveillance photos taken at a Harford Rd. store. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In another case, the major acknowledged the Baltimore Guide for printing photos of a suspect shopping with a stolen credit card at Target.

“Believe it or not, the suspect’s uncle brought him in and said, ‘This is your guy,’” said Davis.

The man was arrested and charged in five robberies.

Police presence
The meeting was called by Kraft to answer residents’ questions on police presence and response to reported robberies.

Davis said that there are 35 officers working each of three shifts in the Southeast District, with an absolute minimum of 18 cops on the street during a shift, though there are often more.

Davis said that in addition to those officers, there is the Flex Unit, currently deployed in Highlandtown, which sees the most robberies in the Southeast, the Drug Unit, and the Public Housing Unit. Officer Larry Fasano patrols Fell’s Point on foot, as well. Davis added that a former colleague now supervising the Maryland State Police has sent seven officers into Baltimore during the last two weekends.

Regarding response, Davis said that the first thing police do when a robbery is reported is “circle the wagons” and look for the suspect.

“Fifteen to 20 percent of the time, we actually catch the suspect” immediately after the robbery, he said.

How to avoid/survive robberies
For businesses, Davis recommended surveillance cameras. In one instance, he said, the owner of a bar told the man robbing his establishment that he was on camera.

“Oh, never mind,” said the would-be bandit, making a quick exit.

Ron Furman, owner of Max’s, noted that he has 48 cameras in his establishment.

For individuals, Davis said that it’s always best to give a robbery suspect whatever he wants. But it’s also important, Davis added, to “be the best witness you can be.” That means writing down everything you can remember about the robber as soon as possible, from what he says, to what his weapon looks like, to the color of the shoes that he’s wearing.

Detective Jenkins noted that it is common to find a suspect days or weeks later, wearing the exact clothing that was described in the original police report.

Another tip: don’t have your cell phone shut off. Police can trace the signal. Davis recommended that residents with iPhones download the “Find My Phone” app. For stolen credit cards, cancel them, but try to determine where and when they were used by the thief, Davis added.

Interacting with police officers
Kraft said that some residents had told him that when they see officers congregating at a place such as Royal Farms or Panera Bread, those officers “for a lack of a better phrase, they’re not very respectful to citizens.”

Davis responded that, though those officers are most likely assigned to other districts and are in the Southeast because of the food, they are still required to either address a resident’s needs or find an officer who will address the need.

“If you do not get the service you need, I want you to go back and call 911, not 311, and say ‘I have an officer here who is not getting me the service I need. I want a supervisor here,’ and a supervisor will be sent out to respond,” said Davis.

He said that officers can be identified by badge numbers, name tags, and numbers on their cruisers.

Moving forward
Kraft said that the next community crime meeting would likely involve representatives from State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein’s office, and possibly Bernstein himself, to explain how criminals are being prosecuted and sentenced.

by Erik Zygmont

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