Baltimore County Police suspect that a gang of professional criminals are responsible for a spate of thefts from vehicles in Catonsville during the last two weeks.
Thieves stole property from several cars parked on a Catonsville High School parking lot during athletic events, hitting at least two vehicles cars on Sunday, Sept. 30 and three vehicles two weeks later on Oct. 14, according to Ofc. Bill Rubie, community outreach officer for the Wilkens Precinct.
In addition, property was taken from two vehicles parked at the Catonsville Family Y Center on Rolling Road during a swim meet on Oct. 14, Rubie said.
"This isn't kids going around looking for little things to take," Rubie said. "In most cases, when car windows are broken like that, we're talking about professional criminals. They cased the vehicles."
"It's been a pain," said Jennifer Stevens of Catonsville, whose checkbook, bank card and driver's license were stolen on Sept. 30.
Stevens' daughter plays field hockey in a program sponsored by Catonsville Recreation and Parks Council. On Sunday, Sept. 30, Stevens parked in the upper athletic field parking lot off Hilltop Ave.
"About 10-15 minutes into the first game, we heard fireworks" emanating from the parking lot, Stevens said.
People who went to investigate the noise found two cars with smashed windows. The firecrackers may have been used to cover the sound of breaking glass, Stevens said.
Within hours, Stevens' bank card had been used at a gas station in Joppa, MD.
"It's really unnerving that they took my ID and are masquerading as me," she said. "Now I have to check my credit report and keep an eye on things."
Another victim—who asked not to be named because her ID and house keys were stolen on Oct. 14—said that the thieves tried to cash almost $10,000 in stolen checks and posed as her to withdraw money from her credit union.
"This seems fairly organized and fairly extensive," she said.
According to Rubie, in each case property was in plain view before cars were broken into. He urged residents to lock their vehicles and not leave purses or other property in view.
The police department is aware of the problem of thefts from cars and is increasing patrols in the Catonsville High School parking lots during athletic events.