Baltimore County Now
by Police Chief James Johnson
Following tragedies such as Monday’s Perry Hall High School shooting, we all search for lessons, for knowledge that can help us avoid something similar one day down the road.
Over the past week, I’ve heard many people ask how the 15-year-old suspect, Robert Wayne Gladden Jr., managed to get the shotgun – kept in his father’s home in Hawthorne – used to critically injure classmate Daniel Borowy and victimize an entire community.
It’s a logical question – but there’s an equally logical question that has been overlooked: Why didn’t Gladden use the multiple firearms in his mother and stepfather’s home in the 8500 block of Bradshaw Road?
This shooting, as devastating as it was, could have been worse. Police have evidence that Gladden was well aware of the guns in his stepfather’s home but knew he could not access them because they were locked in a safe.
One person was shot on Monday. As I see it, there could have been more victims but for two factors: The quick and heroic actions of the guidance counselor who rushed to subdue Gladden, and Gladden’s inability to obtain his stepfather’s weapons.
The shotgun Gladden used in this crime holds two rounds of ammunition. It is capable of inflicting deadly damage. Still, reloading it takes time, and it is not as easy to use as more contemporary weapons.
Now consider some of the weapons and ammunition in the Bradshaw Road home as described in the District Court statement of charges already released to the public:
- Zhongzhou 20-gauge shotgun
- Boito 12-gauge shotgun
- Sears Roebuck & Co Model 100 30-30 caliber rifle
- Marlin Model 30-30 caliber rifle
- Remington 22 caliber auto loader
- Remington shotgun
- Remington Sportsman 12 gauge shotgun
- Ruger P95 9mm semiautomatic handgun
- Loaded handgun magazine and assorted live ammunition
Some of these weapons are easier to use and have higher capacity magazines than the shotgun used in the shooting. The Ruger handgun is a semiautomatic weapon capable of rapidly firing multiple rounds. That weapon would have been particularly destructive, had Gladden been able to use it in the cafeteria.
Gladden did not take one or more of these weapons to Perry Hall High on the first day of school because he literally could not put his hands on them. Andrew Piper, Gladden’s stepfather, is legally prohibited from owning weapons. But at least he locked these guns in a safe.
Gladden took the Western Field double-barreled shotgun – unsecured in his father’s Hawthorne Road home -- and carried it to school because it was the only weapon he could get.
Maryland law requires gun owners to secure loaded firearms from children 15 and younger. The Perry Hall shooting shows that not securing unloaded weapons – while legal – is dangerous as well. As a police chief, I encourage gun owners to do more than the law requires by securing all weapons, loaded or unloaded. This is neither difficult nor expensive; there are many affordable gun-locking devices on the market.
Regardless of our opinions about guns and gun control, we ought to be able to agree on this: The consequences of not securing firearms in the home can be disastrous.
If you are a gun owner, I hope that is one of the lessons you take away from what happened at Perry Hall High this week.
By Jim Johnson
Baltimore County Police Chief
The Baltimore County Police Department’s 2011 crime report, now available online here, takes a more comprehensive approach to crime trends than ever before.
In addition to providing year-to-year information, for the first time this report looks at five-year trends. I asked our Crime Analysis Unit to compare 2011 data with the previous five-year averages for each category of crime because I am convinced that we can’t understand whether we’re making progress in reducing crime simply by looking at the short term; we also need to look at how we’re doing over time.
A single year of crime data can be influenced significantly by weather, civil disturbances and the random – or even once-in-a-lifetime – event. We get a better picture of how we are doing when we take the longer view.
The 2011 report shows that our Police Department is fulfilling the mission of reducing crime – both in the short term and the long term.
Looking at crime numbers from 2006 to 2011, it becomes increasingly apparent that 2010 was an extremely unusual year – probably because of the February 2010 double blizzard that kept people inside for weeks. That year, every category of Part I violent and property crime fell well below levels seen from 2006 to 2009.
In 2011, total Part I violent crime dropped even more. In 2010, there were 4,305 incidents; in 2011, the number fell to 4,250. Part I property crime increased slightly.
The real news, however, is how 2011 crime levels compare to the previous five-year average. The crime totals in seven of the eight categories of Part I crime – the most serious crimes – were lower in 2011 than the previous five-year average for each category. (The exception was homicide, in which the total number of crimes equaled the five-year average.)
Looking at the five-year averages, we have reduced Part I violent crime by more than 14 percent; Part I property crime by nearly 8 percent and Part II crime by nearly 9 percent. In 2011, we drove down total crime below the previous five-year average by an impressive 9 percent.
In addition, Baltimore County Police continue to excel at solving crimes and getting criminals off the street. Year after year, our clearance rates for Part I crime exceed the national average as determined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program; for some crimes, our clearance rates almost double the national average. We expect this pattern to continue.
When we see crime dropping over time and criminals prosecuted for their actions, we know our law enforcement strategies are working. I encourage you to join me in thanking our more than 1,900 officers and hundreds of civilian professional staff for their hard work in making the County safer, and for continuing the fight against crime into 2012 and beyond.
Director of Public Safety Media & Communications
An email from one of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Community Resource officers, warning about the dangers of “Drano bombs,” has gone viral.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve fielded calls from news agencies, government offices and community leaders asking if the threat is “for real” and trying to gauge the extent of the problem. One of my neighbors called, asking if it’s safe to pick up a Pepsi bottle someone tossed in the front yard.
The answer is: yes, it’s probably safe. If the bottle looks like a normal bottle, go ahead and toss it in the trash.
But if it looks swollen or misshapen – as if it might burst – leave it alone and call 911.
Drano bombs, also called “bottle bombs,” are nothing new. Made from a few basic household items, they explode when gas generated by a chemical reaction inside the capped bottle builds to a breaking point. Our Arson & Bomb Unit says they’ve been around for years; typically, they’re constructed by juveniles fooling around with stuff they ought to leave alone.
Baltimore County is not experiencing a Drano bomb epidemic.
There were 13 Drano bomb cases in all of 2011. So far this year, police have documented six incidents involving the devices – two in the White Marsh precinct; one in the Franklin precinct; and, last week, three in the North Point precinct. Officers in the bomb squad say they typically see an uptick in these incidents at this time of year, just after school lets out.
The Franklin incident involved the arrest of a 13-year-old boy. One of the North Point incidents occurred in the Dundalk High gymnasium and involved arrest of an 18-year-old student. In a different North Point incident, one person suffered minor injuries.
The lack of serious injuries is good news, because Drano bombs can cause severe injury, especially if they’re placed in a mailbox or other container that can turn to shrapnel if the device goes off.
The catch-22 in all this is that efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of Drano bombs may entice some kids (or adults) into experimenting with them. Such would-be pranksters should know that the law puts Drano bombs in the same category as the pipe bombs terrorists use. Building, setting off or possessing a Drano bomb is a felony; conviction can land you in jail for up to 25 years and/or cost you up to $250,000 in fines.