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Police and Fire News

Baltimore County Police and Fire News

Official News Blog of Baltimore County police, fire, homeland security and emergency management. Call 911 to report crimes in progress and emergencies.
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Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson has announced a number of new command assignments that take effect tomorrow, April 1.

  • Woodland M. Wilson III will be promoted from the rank of Captain to the rank of Major. Captain Wilson oversees BCoPD’s Operations Support Section, including K-9 and the Tactical Unit. As a Major, he will oversee Support Operations Division, including the Tactical Unit and K-9 as well as Aviation, the Hostage Negotiation Team, the Behavioral Assessment Unit, the Marine Team and Traffic.
  • Major Daniel Kaliszak will command BCoPD’s Technical Services Division. Major Kaliszak currently is assigned to Support Operations.
  • Captain Gordon Skinner, currently commander of Precinct 8/Parkville, will command the Vice/Narcotics Section.
  • Captain Jay Landsman Jr., currently assigned to the Vice/Narcotics Section, will command Precinct 6/Towson.
  • Captain Lisa Hannon, currently assigned to the Operations Bureau, will command Precinct 8/Parkville.
  • Captain Richard Howard, currently commander of Precinct 6/Towson, will be assigned to the Operations Bureau.

The changes follow the retirement last month of Major Karen Johnson.

Today Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson reaffirmed that Caitlyn Virts is safe and that Baltimore County Police, Baltimore County's Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI will provide all available resources to help her and her siblings.

Caitlyn's mother, Bobbie Jo Cortez, 36, was found murdered Thursday morning in her bedroom in the 3100 block of Ardee Way in Dundalk. Caitlyn's father, Timothy Virts -- who fled with Caitlyn after the killing and was found in South Carolina last night -- is charged with first-degree murder. He will be extradited to face prosecution in Maryland; the extradition process can take weeks.

At a press briefing this morning, Chief Johnson said that the FBI Baltimore Division's participation in the investigation was pivotal in locating Timothy and Caitlyn Virtz. Representatives of FBI's Baltimore Division, including Special Agent in Charge Steve Vogt, participated in this morning's briefing.

Johnson said he was "incredibly relieved" that Caitlyn has been found safe, and credited citizen "keyboard crimefighters" with paying attention to the search and helping law enforcement by calling in "thousands" of tips.

Here is a summary of the information Chief Johnson provided:

Caitlyn Virtz

Police in Florence, South Carolina found Caitlyn last night, with her father, at the Colonial Motel, just off of I-95. She appears to be unharmed.

"Of course," Johnson said, "this child and her siblings have endured a terrible trauma and a terrible tragedy. Baltimore County Government and other agencies will provide all the resources possible to help them deal with the aftermath."

Baltimore County social services personnel are working with social services personnel in South Carolina, and Caitlyn will return to Maryland in the near future. State agencies will be involved in helping with decisions about the children's future.

Sequence of Events

Police responded just after 9 a.m. Thursday to the home on Ardee Way, where Bobbie Jo Cortez was found, murdered, in her bedroom. Bobbie Jo's daughter, Caitlyn was missing. Police quickly determined that Timothy Virts, Caitlyn’s father, had taken her and fled in a 1999 Dodge Durango. An Amber Alert was issued Thursday morning.

Between Thursday morning and the time Virts was found in South Carolina last night, BCoPD detectives worked round the clock fielding and tracking down hundreds of tips and leads.  None of these tips and leads panned out until yesterday afternoon.  A critical turning point, Johnson said, was the FBI’s entrance into this case. The FBI helped broaden this search and extend the reach of the Amber Alert and other notification tools.

Late yesterday afternoon, we received credible information that Virts was in North Carolina. This gave BCoPD for the first time an idea that he was headed south.

Last night, BCoPD received notification from the Florence (SC) Police Dept that the Dodge Durango driven by Virtz had been located at the Colonial Motel. Johnson referred inquiries about the apprehension of Timothy Virts to Florence Police and thanked them for the crucial role they played in this case. Johnson noted that Florence police reported that Virts was arrested without incident.

The investigation into Bobbie Jo Cortez' murder remains active, and BCoPD are not providing additional details at this time.

FBI officials said that a charge of unlawful flight against Virts likely will be dropped; an unlawful flight warrant primarily is a tool allowing the FBI to arrest a wanted suspect anywhere in the U.S.

Notification Tools

"This was a situation whose successful outcome is a direct result of the emergency notification tools that helped the public and other law enforcement agencies identify Timothy Virts and the Dodge Durango," Johnson said.

Johnson said BCoPD was told by police in Florence that a clerk at the Colonial Motel had seen notification about Caitlyn Virts’ disappearance on Facebook and contacted the authorities..

"This case really illustrates the value of multiple platforms for notifying people of emergency situations – in this case, the Amber Alert, mainstream media, social media, the billboards and posters distributed by the FBI," Johnson said. " Citizens who follow these notifications and call in tips truly are keyboard crime fighters, and we are immensely grateful for their participation in this crisis."

Johnson also thanked the many law enforcement partners who assisted with this case: the  FBI, Florence (SC) Police Department, Maryland State Police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the region.

Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson today provided some Precinct 6/Towson crime data for the third quarter of 2013, the most recent period for which data has been vetted under the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting System. 

The information -- prepared by BCoPD's Crime Analysis Unit -- shows data for the entire, 16-square-mile precinct, which extends from the Baltimore City line north to I-695, east to Perring Parkway and west to Falls Road. 

This data includes the number of cases of robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and theft  from January through September 2013 (we have also included the data for these crime categories for the first six-month period of 2013). BCoPD has compared this data to the previous five-year average for the same time periods, a comparison that allows a more accurate long-term view of statistical information. 

Though the first nine months of 2013, there were seven more robberies throughout the entire precinct than the previous five-year average for the same time period. 

Last summer, Chief Johnson discussed efforts to enhance the law enforcement presence in the Towson precinct -- unique because of its growing student population, large numbers of shopping districts, hospitals and parking lots. Those efforts continue as the precinct employs a variety of crime-fighting strategies including targeted deployments of officers, including specialized units; and technological resources including tag readers and mall cameras. Johnson said he anticipates additional enhancements in the coming year.

"Towson is the most densely populated precinct in the county," Johnson said,"and different from our other precincts because of its role as the County Seat and as a hub of education, commerce and entertainment. Thousands of people work in Towson, go to school here, shop here. Working with our community and business partners, we will continue to identify and address crime trends in this precinct."

Chief Johnson also noted that case clearances in the Towson precinct are among the highest in the county.

Towson Precinct Captain Richard Howard said, "My officers have worked extremely hard over the past few months clearing many of the cases that have made headlines in recent months. We will continue to work in partnership with our communities and to educate people about how to prevent crimes such as theft and burglary."

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