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Surge in robberies concern South Baltimore residents

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 11:25:40-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — Spencer Weidman is done.

“Yeah pretty much, I'm ready to go…I mean I am in the process of my exit plan. Renting, selling the property...whatever I gotta do. It's just not fun anymore.”

After 12 years, the South Baltimore resident says it is not fun to know that many people he knows have been robbed in his small part of the city, including his elderly, disabled neighbor earlier this month.

Weidman’s neighbor joins a group of eight armed robbery victims in the greater Federal Hill neighborhood since January first alone, including a man who was shot in his car last weekend.

The latest stick-up happened on Olive Street near Fort Avenue yesterday where, in a familiar M.O., the suspects, mostly juveniles and mostly in the afternoon hours approached a victim, pointed a gun and demanded her phone.

It is the type of crime and the frequency of it lately that is a tipping point for parts of a weary city.

“There's no plan,” Weidman said, “Nobody seems to be doing anything. I mean, even the police are understaffed. I mean you can't point the finger anywhere except at people you know, who run the city.”

You will find a familiar refrain at Protean Books near Sharp Leadenhall.

While the neon sign flashes, open, another sign is now on the locked front door; customers now have to be let in.

It is a policy that started yesterday after an employee felt two juveniles in masks came in to case the book and record store.

Lately, owner Matt Benicewicz says...he is taking no chances.

“Something like this happens every day in the neighborhood and it is hard to even keep up with them and yeah, I don't see any end in sight unless we hear some sort of message from leadership about what our possible options are to stop it,” Benicewicz said.

Police statistics show a 77 percent increase in robberies in the Southern District so far this year including a 50 percent surge in street muggings.

That statistic joins the consistently high city-wide murder rate in Baltimore which is currently 23 people on this, the 24th day of January.

The latest murder was a 51-year-old man in East Baltimore on North Milton Avenue.

Via satellite from the Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh responded to our questions and said crime was down last year and investment in Baltimore is up.

“Things don't happen overnight but we know one life lost in our city is one life too many,” the mayor said, “When we think about all of the investment that is going to be made in the city, we believe that making our city safe is one of our top priorities, but again, it is how we all lean in and work together.”

For right now though, and from behind a locked door of a South Baltimore business...the priority for some is caution.