Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vehicle Owners At Risk of Break Ins Get Letters From Police

Responding to a surge in car break-ins in the downtown area, Baltimore police will be mailing photos of items left in plain view to the vehicle owners in an effort to warn them of the risks.

Car break-ins are up more than 100 percent in the past four weeks in the Central District, an area that includes downtown, Mount Vernon and the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. Police said they plan to increase patrols and dedicate a monitor at the downtown closed-circuit television control center to watch for break-ins.

But they're also hoping to send a message to potential victims. Officers, along with the Downtown Partnership, plan to walk the streets, peering into cars and taking photos of items in plain view.

On a recent patrol, officers took photos of a woman's purse on the passenger seat, with her wallet exposed; other motorists left change purses and even laptop computers on car seats. Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police will send photos along with a letter reminding people not to "feed the bears" and become a victim of crime.

Guglielmi said police are tracing a significant number of the break-ins to a small number of offenders who have been recently released from incarceration.

"These guys are heavy hitters," Guglielmi said. "This is what they do. They steal cars and break into cars."

Mark Butcher, 38, also known as Mikail Jazzar, was shot by an off-duty city police officer who encountered the suspect breaking into his vehicle just before midnight May 21 in the first block of W. Chase St.

Butcher has a long history of convictions for car theft, theft, destruction of property and drug violations. Newly released court papers outline the shooting. The officer, identified in court papers as Detective Derek Carver, was eating at a nearby restaurant when he heard a car alarm go off and went to investigate. Records indicate the suspect was sitting inside the 2007 Chevy Tahoe, got out when he saw Carver and pointed "what appeared to be a weapon at him."

Carver, fearing for his safety, fired one round, striking Butcher in the right knee, according to the documents. Officers who responded found a screwdriver among Butcher's possessions, as well as a tape recorder and BlackBerry belonging to Carver. Butcher has been charged with theft under $1,000, possession of burglary tools and assault.

Guglielmi said police plan to continue the patrols and picture-taking "a couple times a week, until we get a handle on it."

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