Deception Burglaries

Deception Burglaries Capt. Martin Lurz – BCOPD Precinct 7

These incidents seem to increase with the arrival of warmer weather, although they can occur any time of the year. MOST IMPORTANTLY – SHARE this information with your neighbors
and family.

Deception burglaries have one common theme – to get homeowners distracted by getting them to walk into another room or, more frequently, asking the homeowner to step outside and then getting them to move to the side or rear of the house (out of view) while a second suspect enters the house through the unlocked door and steals whatever is quickly accessible.

Here is how it works:

The first suspect will come to the door and use some type of ruse to win the confidence of the homeowner. For example, the suspect may tell the homeowner he works for a fence company (TV, or landscaping company — you name it, they’ve tried them all) and tell the homeowner to step outside with him so he can examine the property line in the rear of the property. If the owner does step outside, they will generally leave the door unlocked and the first suspect will escort the owner around the back out of view of the door. The first suspect may use a cell phone to “call his boss” when, in fact, he is ACTUALLY CALLING THE SECOND SUSPECT to let him know that entry into the home can now be made. After about ten minutes, the first suspect and the homeowner will walk back into the house AFTER the second suspect has slipped out. These burglars generally take small items, a purse or wallet, or jewelry that are easy to grab and
conceal.

There are generally two common themes to all these type burglaries:
A ruse or “scam” is used to gain trust and confidence.
The elderly are more likely to be a victim of these burglaries

There are many variations to the “scam” burglar, here are several examples. Two suspects come to the door and ask the homeowner to accept a package for their neighbor. If they are allowed in the house, one will say she is thirsty and ask for water. As the homeowner walks the one to the kitchen and engages in conversation, the second one slips off and steals small
valuables.

In the Power Company employee scam, the suspect says they are an employee and needs to get to the basement to investigate a “problem in the lines”. When the homeowner walks that person to the basement, the second suspect enters and steals the valuables.

DO NOT let anyone that you do not know and trust into your house. Employees of BGE carry ID photos. CALL the company for verification. IF THE “EMPLOYEE” PROVIDES YOU WITH THE NUMBER FOR VERIFICATION, DON’T CALL THAT NUMBER! CALL THE NUMBER LISTED IN THE PHONE BOOK. The reason is that if the person at the door is trying to scam you, the number they supply is probably the cell phone number of the second suspect who will tell you “Yes it’s perfectly OK to let that person into your house.”

If you are really suspicious, tell the person you are calling 911. A legitimate employee will wait for the police, the deception burglars won’t.

Stay alert and get the word out, especially to elderly neighbors, family members and friends. Awareness is key.

Tell them to call 911 immediately to report suspicious activity. Memorize the suspect’s appearance (scars, marks, anything unusual). If a vehicle description and/or license plate number can safely be obtained write it down immediately and provide it to the 911 operator.

Be alert, be aware, be curious and call 911.

Chestnut Ridge / Sater’s Lane Baptist Church

In January the FRCA was notified of proposed changes at the Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church on Saters’s Lane, north of Maryvale. Specifically, Baptist Family and Children’s Services Inc, a non profit entity, wants to buy the Baptist Church built in 1995 on Saters’s Lane and use its office space, while the congregation continued to meet in the sanctuary.

The proposal seemed innocuous enough, but would require a special exception. To obtain a special exception a landowner must file a Petition with the County and have a hearing before the County Zoning Officer. After reviewing the matter, FRCA Director Dan Meenan suggested questions about the proposed use; and the answers were alarming, e.g., the proposed use would have 14 full-time and 2 half-time employees.

So, the FRCA Board decided to notify nearby residents. The hearing was set for April 24. The FRCA sent out its notice about April 16. Within days, substantial community opposition emerged, including Bob Chertkof, President of the Clearings Community Association; the community met and decided to hire counsel. By April 21, Azrael Franz, Esquire, had been retained, and Dan Meenan had sent another notice to the community stating additional information he had discovered.

On April 24th, W. Franz and about 20 local residents appeared at the hearing which went well for the community as testimony revealed that the Church congregation is small and barely surviving financially, while Baptist Family is large and currently operates from its headquarters in Columbia, NM, for which it pays rent of $175,000/year. Robert H. Gerstmyer, Executive Director of Baptist Family, testified that it wants to relocate from Columbia to Saters Lane. Mr. Gerstmyer is also a member of the Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church and would soon be its new part-time pastor, as the current full-time pastor is resigning due to the diminishing congregation.

On May 20, the County Hearing Officer issued his Opinion in which he found that Baptist Family is a charitable organization and not a religious entity. Thus, if the property were transferred to Baptist Family, the property would cease to be owned by a religious institution; and therein was the “fatal flaw to the Petitioners’ special hearing request.”

Specifically, the Hearing Officer found that the Development Plan now in force mandates that the church building is to be used for church services and church-related activities by church members and guests [which restriction] was specifically negotiated and placed on the Development Plan by the residents and neighbors … in 1994 [because they] were very concerned at that time that the church property would be utilized by some other business entity ….

In essence, [if the Petition were granted,] the subject property would be converted into an office building with a subsidiary lease to the … Church to hold services on Sundays for a small number of its members. This property is zoned RC 5 and such a transition to office use is not permitted within that zone. For these reasons, the Petitioners’ special hearing request must be denied.

Baptist Family has not, however, abandoned its quest, and the community is in negotiations with its counsel.

The FRCA will keep you posted.

Appellate Court Rules For Community – County Council Changes Law to Allow Double Density

What were they thinking? What about zoning regulations in RC4 and RC5? Do they not matter any more?

The Muellers asked for and got permission from Baltimore County to sink a 2.d well for irrigation and build a two-story, detached garage with storage, but in fact built a 2.d home with a bathroom and utilities on the l,t floor, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, and full kitchen on the 2,,d; all served by their new well and an unpermitted septic system. Then they petitioned the County to bless the defacto subdivision of their single lot as an “in-law” apartment. The neighbors and FRCA opposed the Petition, and the County Zoning Officer said No! The Muellers appealed to the County Board of Appeals , but the Board denied their Petition, finding:

The current precedent is to allow “in-law” living quarters as an addition to an existing dwelling, where there is the medical necessity ofan elderly relative. Under this precedent, this matter does not meet the requirements to allow “in-law” living quarters in the existing accessory structure. The Board is concerned that by allowing the current living arrangement in the existing accessory building, the density of the property is increased beyond what is allowable in RC 4 and RC 5 zones.

The Muellers then appealed to the County Circuit Court which said, SURE. So, the FRCA appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, and last month the appellate Court reversed the Circuit Court and reinstated the ruling of the County Board of Appeals, finding:

The Board’s statement that the “current precedent is to allow ‘in-law’ living quarters as an addition to an existing dwelling, where there is the medical necessity of an elderly relative,” is amply supported by the evidence.

In addition, the Board noted that:

There was no testimony presented why [the Mueller's' son] cannot reside in the main dwelling, other than he frequently entertains fellow students and friends and some stay overnight. To reclassify the accessory structure as an “in-law apartment” is a misnomer.

This is another way of saying that allowing a healthy, college-age son to live in a separate residence on the same lot is not the sort of “comfort, convenience or
necessity” contemplated by the County Council when it enacted the definition of accessory use. We defer to the Board’s interpretation of the BCZR.

So, the Community wins, right? Wrong!

On July 6 more than a month before the Appellate Court released its Opinion, the County Council introduced Bill [now Bill 49-11 ] which grants every owner of a single standing house in the entire County the right to get a permit to have a second dwelling on their single lot so long as they certify that both dwellings will be occupied by ANY member of an immediate family.

Thus, every large house in our community can now add a second residence on the property to allow junior to move home without having to share a messy kitchen with him.

Maryvale Appeals

Maryvale exists on a narrow ridge between steep slopes and stream valleys. In 1994-95 the Catholic sisters who owned the school subdivided the property, sold the useable acreage for development and profit, and, in order to get County permission to do so, promised to cap the school’s enrollment at 300 students. But Maryvale soon expanded to almost 400 students and a few years ago began an aggressive building campaign. Its construction should have been constrained by County land use laws, but County Zoning authorities brushed those laws aside to grant Maryvale permission to do everything and anything it requested. The FRCA appealed those decisions to the Circuit Court, which affirmed some outright and remanded others to the County to pass the time and allow it to offer new rationales for its irrational rulings. So, the FRCA has appealed the Circuit Court Rulings. In the meantime, well aware of its special status under law, Maryvale’s construction is underway along with the unavoidable environmental destruction caused by heavy construction on steep slopes above stream valleys.