Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Car break-ins: something not really discussed

Buz read with interest the recent Peter Hermann columns on car break-ins in Baltimore--no doubt a crime which is both widespread and really, really damages Baltimore's economic development and viability as a place to shop and do business.
We read:
  • complaints about the police: the lack of patrol; their slow or no appearance, the "failure" to take fingerprints or look at the cameras, etc.
  • complaints about the judges and their supposed lack of enforcing the law, with minimal sentences for the guilty thieves, etc., 
  • complaints about the lack of drug treatment for the poor thieves, so they can stop themselves from going out to steal again, etc. (Drug treatment is not like going to the doctor and taking a pill: it's a long process of psycho-social personal change and lifestyle).
  • complaints about the poor security in the parking garages, where the poor drug-infested thieves are forced to prowl to feed their tummies and bloodstream with food and other goodies, etc. (parking garages are always high-risk security environments).
But here's the thing I found missing from the articles  and letters and posts I read: um, who buys all these nice things that Mr. Sydnor and his drugged buddies steal by smashing your car windows? Huh? Anybody? If there was no market for stolen stuff, the thieves wouldn't steal your stuff. So where does it all go? Nobody seems interested in following up on this aspect. My guess is that the local gendarmes don't really spend a lot of time thinking about this or learning about where the  larceny-from-auto clowns take their stuff to get money for it. I wonder how many get arrested for larceny-from-auto each year in this town? Probably very few. And I wonder how many, if any, are interviewed with a view toward learning where they sell their stuff. Oh, I know, they might be interviewed as to who is selling drugs, or who is murdering someone, maybe. Remember, the policy priority of the city is to stop murders and shootings.

There's a "nice" store a Northern Parkway and Harford Road with a sign or two which boldly exclaim: "We buy anything of value". Hmmmmmmm.

Oh, and it's no accident that most of the folks working the counter at the pawnshop on Greenmount openly wear guns on their side. Maybe because they don't deal with only nice people.

So, when Baltimorons go shopping for stuff do they go to pawn shops or stores that sell anything valuable, or do they buy stuff off the street (hey, buddy, want a cheap GPS?), or in the rest room of a bar [or even right int the bar?]. For folks who do that, if they look in the mirror, they may see some parts of the crime problem which are the most intractable.


Anonymous said...


ppatin said...


On the Sun's website today there were several photos of the Warrant Apprehension Task Force in action, and I noticed that most of the officers appeared to be in jeans and hooded sweatshirts. Now, I know this must sound really anal-retentive on my part, but I kind of like it when law enforcement officers look a little more professional than that. I'd understand if they were trying to blend in with the crowd, however seeing as how they're wearing bullet proof vests with "POLICE" written on them it's not like people will be confused about who they are.

buzoncrime said...

Anonymous---I think Craigslist can be one source for selling or buying stolen stuff, though I suspect the folks breaking into cars, for the most part, are not that familiar with computers. I think Ebay has been more of an outlet for sophisticated thieves. But my guess is the majority of them sell their stuff to pawn shops or on the street or in bars. My hunch is that there is a whole criminal network of buyers out there that nobody knows about--that's why I asked the question.

PPatin---I couldn't agree with you more! I see all these cops walking around "proudly" sporting their soft-body armor, and all their equipment and radios dangling from their belts, along with the baseball hats turned around backwards: ya gotta wonder what sort of dream they are living out: the image of the romantic, sexy, tough "undercover" cop? In the summer you'll often see them with all of their paraphernalia saying police, while they are dressed in shorts. Um, guys/gals, do you-all ever get in scuffles with thugs on glass-strewn streets or crap-strewn allies? Buz wonders why they just don't wear uniforms.
But, like the sheriff in the South Carolina county who wants to make trouble for Phelps, the television role of Miami Vice has a certain allure. I understand that sheriff fancied himself along those lines, and made his name in the drug war. He even drove a Porsche taken from drug dealers.
Um, wonder how his "investigation" is going. If he were here in Baltimore, and said the exact same words, he would be laughed out of town, and the State's Attorney's office would not prosecute.

Anonymous said...

I live at the 800 block of Baltimore St, unfortunately. My car windows have been broken, FIVE times in 2 years. Police come and explain that there isn’t anything they can do about it because the task force they used to have to catch these criminals doesn’t exist any longer. He explained that they used to stake out hotspots and catch these guys. Well why aren’t they doing that any longer? Put some fear into these criminals for Pete’s sake already. Within 1 square block of my apartment, there are remnants of broken glass, EVERY single week and weekend. Come her and walk around this one block where the Cop Shop is located on a Monday morning and look at all the glass. This is an obvious hotspot for a criminal and no one will do anything about it. What are my options? Should I be a vigilante myself and stop this person? Would I be arrested if put a stop to it because by the time the police can get here from across town, they’re long gone. And since I live at President St and Baltimore St, there is a police station directly across the street but I'm not in their district. A year ago, a car that was broken into, belonged to a police officer that works across the street. I buy chance, photographed the criminal during the break-in. That was a shining moment because for one 48 hour period and someone actually gave a hoot. I forwarded the photo to the police but it was too dark for the police to identify him. This time there is blood in my car, on the seat, from the criminal. A crime lab is at least coming to take a sample. Let’s hope that leads to something but what are the odds?
I understand this is petty theft because a window is less than $300 to replace. But when you add up all of the windows, week by week, year after year and on one single block, it is thousands and thousands of dollars. I can’t afford it any longer. My insurance probably has already filled out my form waiting for my next call and the auto glass company should invest in a franchise here, or I should myself.
Not only does word spread about car break-ins and scares tourists, I'm so tired of it and this morning told my wife to start looking for jobs in Portland, Maine. Good bye Baltimore.

buzoncrime said...

Anonymous who lives in the 800 blk. E. Baltimore Street---Sorry to hear about your windows in your car being smashed. Is there some reason, or is it random, or do you have a lot of good stuff in your car (did have?), or what? I'm not playing blame the victim, because I know they sometimes smash the window to "just look" in certain neighborhoods. I mean, like was anything taken any of these five times?

I always tell people coming to Baltimore to not leave anything of value in your car--which is visible. And if you're going to put something valuable in your trunk, do it before arriving at your destination. If you do it then, dumb-dumb will see it and come back later.

Police stake-outs are manpower-intensive, high-risk operations, with many hours of nothing happening--usually. So, a policy decision has been made to deploy our police officers elsewhere. We may not agree with it, but there it is. You may have read about the serious problems with crowds assaulting people at the Inner Harbor, Mt. Vernon, and the block. So, the department is deploying a huge army of officers in those areas to maintain order.

So, the only thing you can to is to try not to leave stuff in your car, and since that apparently may not work, perhaps you could leave your doors unlocked with a club on the steering wheel. I don't know the details of your situation.
Except the area around the Cop Shop is a bad area to live or walk in after dark. I suppose you're one of the folks who got suckered in to renting in that area, with assurances as to how hip and up-and-coming it is. Don't mean to be flip, but the easiest way to reduce your risk is avoidance. Buz would not recommend anyone live in that area. (Of course, I had my window smashed in Roland Park, but that happened once over 13 years). So, in the long run, moving is your best option.

Physically intervening and holding someone for the police or just hurting them can bring a whole drop-down menu of risk. I don't recommend, generally, that anybody try to physically try to resist crime or apprehend someone unless you are specially trained or experienced in doing so.

Put fear in criminals? Please. They really don't want to be caught, but they're not afraid of us anymore. Though some are punished, the criminal justice system is overwhelmed here.

Portland, Maine? Well, I guess life is full of tradeoffs; is you don't have to be in Baltimore for work, school, or family, and can afford to move there (and enjoy winter), go for it. Maine proudly claims to be the 3rd lowest state in violent crime, and the 8th lowest state in property crime. They also said that Portland gives a wonderful respite from big-city life--which is what it sounds like you really need.

Good luck! By the way, where is your apartment, and how much are you paying for it? Just curious, though you've said the general area.

Anonymous said...

Hey Buzz,

SHAME ON YOU! shame on the balto police as well. It is exacly your kind of attitude and the cops' kind of attitude that is continuing to make balto a horrible place to live and visit. Of course, murder, rape and other major crimes should get attention and be prevented but like Confusius said, "it's not the journey up the mountain that wears down the traveler, it is the sand in his shoes." Murders, rapes, etc. are "boulders" and affect the minority of people in balto - the media gives them too much attention - they usually happen late at night in really bad neighborhoods -- duh!. It's the everyday petty crimes like car breakins that happen in huge volumes in nice neighborhoods and discourage people from being in balto. I'm a contractor and have to have tools in my truck. After losing over $2K in tools in two breakins I will not work in balto again. The cops are a joke and don't give a damn cause truck breakins are just another form of welfare for the residents of balto.

buzoncrime said...

Last anonymous---I agree with you on your thoughts!

Way too much attention is being paid to this little civil war being fought in 4-square miles of Baltimore while the average citizen has their vehicles broken into and homes burglarized.

I'm very sorry you had your tools stolen, but ya cannot keep a truck with tools around some parts of Baltimore without someone attempting to break into it. Even if locked, in some areas, you have to regularly check it and/or have a nice loud alarm.

I agree that the police don't care zilch about larceny from autos. But don't really think they're a joke, either. We still need them, even if some of them do care.