For young couples looking to raise families in a Jewish neighborhood, the close-knit neighboring communities of Pikesville and Park Heights are attractive places. But for some, recent incidents of crime have tarnished that vision.
“We’re really concerned, because we moved to this part of town because it was more of a quiet, safe part of Pikesville, and honestly, until last week we still felt like that,” said Ashley Strauss, who lives on Northbrook Road.
She’s referring to an incident on Tuesday, March 4 in which a man and his teenage daughter were tied up and robbed after two men forced their way into the family’s home in the 3200 block of Hatton Road.
“Everyone kind of has anxiety now,” said Strauss.
The men stole computer tablets, jewelry, a camcorder, a wallet, cash, an iPod Touch and a cell phone, according to a statement from the Baltimore County police department. The suspects fled the scene after the man told them he had activated the home’s alarm, said police.
Nathan Willner, a Shomrim spokes-man, said the Northern Park Heights family of neighborhoods has never seen this type of crime.
“This is extremely frightening, and we’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “It’s definitely shaken the community to its core.”
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Police believe this may be related to an incident that occurred earlier that evening in the 700 block of Leafydale Terrace in Pikesville. There, two men wearing masks and armed with handguns approached a man getting out of his car in front of a home at about 7:50 p.m., said police. They took the man’s cell phone and wallet, walked him to a nearby house and went inside. The robbers noticed many people inside the home and fled the scene toward Milford Mill Road after one of them commented that there were too many people there, according to police.
Shomrim president Ronnie Rosenbluth said that crime in the area has progressed over the past year from shed break-ins to burglaries when residents are not home to burglaries while residents sleep to the most recent home invasion.
“I haven’t heard of anything like this in the last 25 years in our neighborhood,” he said.
Strauss said about six months ago, one of her car windows was smashed in, but she hadn’t heard about anything like last week’s incident on Hatton Road. According to police, the suspects knocked on the door and one asked for some water. The man who answered the door took the cup and turned to go to the kitchen, at which point the two men entered the home. After brandishing a handgun, they tied the man and his teenage daughter up in the living room.
Rosenbluth sent Shomrim members to the home after the incident and had about a dozen volunteers canvassing the area.
The Baltimore County Police Pikesville Precinct Investigative Services Team is investigating the incidents and trying to determine if the victims were targeted, police said.
Cpl. John Wachter, spokesman for Baltimore County Police, reminded residents to not answer the door for strangers and call police if they see something suspicious. Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call Baltimore County Police at 410-887-1279.
“There are a lot of kind people out there, and they want to help people,” said Wachter. “Unfortunately, criminals know that, and they want to take advantage of that.”
As evidence of the community’s high state of alert, Talmudical Academy students — who in advance of Purim will be out in the neighborhood collecting donations on behalf of the Israeli educational organization Lev L’Achim — will not be alone when they canvass households. According to an email sent out to parents, Shomrim and the Northwest Citizens Patrol will keep a watch on the students’ routes, and students have been told to go out in groups of six and not to be out past 9 p.m.
As for Strauss and her husband, who have children ages 21/2 and 3 months, they support Shomrim but hope police will also step up their efforts.
“I’m hoping that the police become a little bit more proactive,” she said.
“What we’re presented with right now doesn’t seem like [the criminals] could be scared off by a couple of Jewish guys driving around.”