Friday, September 26, 2008

Murder in the Northwood Shopping Center--from a police/security perspective

Buz has a few thoughts about the murder of Ken Harris, though I don't think I ever met him, from the perspective of security:
  • I wish people would stop using the word "random" when referring to these kinds of crimes. It was only random in the sense that Mr. Harris happened to pick that place to visit at that particular time. Otherwise, it was not "random". These thugs were engaging in a planned robbery of the bar. My sense is that they were waiting for the owner, Covington, to come out so they could jump him and get the proceeds of the day's special event (which they were apparently aware of--meaning at least one of them is from the area, unless there's a "snitch" working or attending the bar). When Harris drove up and left a woman in the car, the wait was over; they could see that he would be coming right out, and the door had to open to let him out to rejoin the woman waiting for him. So it was no more random than the Zach Sowers robbery: a bunch of thugs/criminals (not gentlemen) going around looking, watching and waiting for someone to rob. So, yeah, in that sense, it is correct that "it could happen to anyone".
  • For you small business owners out there: once your business is robbed, some sort of action to change the environment, or your biz policies, procedures, or practices needs to occur--or the probability of it happening again increases dramatically. Sometimes, small business owners don't want to pay for security personnel or cameras or alarms; but sometimes modest, simple changes might help. If you can't think of any, perhaps a consult with a professional in this area might be useful.
  • Of course, if you're in a high-crime area, probably not much is going to prevent another robbery from happening, but some actions and equipment might reduce the number.
  • One elected official said that something has to be done so that our young people had other choices, sort of implying that they didn't have any choice in doing this. But I guess this well-meaning person is suggesting programs that allow our young people, who don't have fathers around, and sometimes not very good mothers, to see and interact with positive role models. You can think what you like about former Commissioner Frazier, but he had the right ideas with his PAL program. Too bad it wasn't supported, and it has essentially become a shadow of its former self and would it could have become.
  • However, having said that, armed robbery and thuggery don't happen overnight: these individuals tend to be very nasty and sociopaths. Often police and judges and POs know, or can fairly easily predict, who these people are. So, early intervention must take place right away--after their first arrest; someone has to tell them this is wrong and if they can't stay away from THE STREET, they're messing their lives up. Apparently, nobody tells them. But they learn the hard way: when you have 2-3 criminal convictions, it is really difficult to get a job or even an apartment; you have to keep going back to the STREET. So, young people make choices.
  • The fact that the clowns who committed this robbery took great care to hide their faces probably means that they're from the area. And, of course, they didn't want to be seen by the probably pathetic, cheap security cameras in the shopping center.
  • Hardened heavy-duty miscreants are not deterred by security cameras; the companies make themselves a lot of money pushing them to businesses, but the truth is that they only have a function as part of a total security program. They probably deter some people, but all ya gotta do is put up a hood or sunglasses (or a Halloween mask), and the cameras are worthless. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: you can see from this lousy camera picture that that can't possibly look anything like my client!
  • The more days that go by, the less likely this crime is going to be solved anytime soon. (It's been almost a week now.) After a week, the probability of solvability drops off dramatically. Of course, about a year from now, one of these clown will get arrested for something else serious and bingo, his DNA will match. 
  • I really like this guy Bealefeld: he made the notification to the widow of her husband's death himself at 5 am. And he was very careful and close-mouthed about anything he was giving out to the public; I really liked that he said: "we  have to be THOUGHTFUL" about how we proceed and release information toe the public. Wow! Thoughtful! I have never heard another high-ranking police official in my 30 years in the business use the word or advocate being "thoughtful". We are lucky to have this guy as commissioner.
  • There's been a lot of talk about security at the shopping center and who's responsible. Well, I hate to say it, but landlords are probably the most-sued of any business owner, and security is one of those issues they are sued for. I believe the layman's standard is whether the security was "reasonable and adequate". Maybe Donald Wright can help here. The family of the St. Paul's School administrator who was killed in the Towson Town Center parking garage sued earlier this year for that very thing. I haven't heard how that case turned out, or if it has gone to trial yet. ( I understand that Baltimore County is a tough jurisdiction to sue for such a thing and win.)
  • Clearly, Mary Pat Clarke is right when she says that the Northeastern District needs a substantial increase in police officers. I told a former Deputy Commissioner, more then ten years ago, that Northeastern District need a 4th Sector. (an area covered by a patrol sergeant and squad of officers) The district has had only three sectors and is too busy for that; plus it has experienced a substantial increase in criminal activity the last several years as a result of the demolition of public housing. Please see a recent issue of the Atlantic magazine which discusses the phenomenon of a movement of crime because of housing policies.
These are some of my thoughts from my perspective. I wonder what you-all (a Southern term) think.

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