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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.
Keyword: kevin kamenetz

Baltimore County Police continue to investigate two stabbing incidents that took place early Sunday morning outside the Towson Nights Hookah Lounge Cafe in downtown Towson. Meanwhile, a new law designed to reduce problems related to hookah lounges across the county took effect yesterday.

The law, introduced at the request of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz with the support of Police Chief Jim Johnson, requires hookah lounges to close at midnight. County Executive Kamenetz and Chief Johnson believe the earlier closing time -- some lounges have remained open as late as 4 a.m. -- will reduce the number of nuisance and criminal complaints associated with hookah establishments.

"The unfortunate incident in Towson outside of a hookah lounge this weekend once again shows why the recent legislation limiting hours at hookah and vapor lounges that I introduced and that was passed by the County Council is so important," Kamenetz said.  "Beginning yesterday, these places of business must close no later than midnight.  Should problematic behavior continue after the new law is implemented, I am fully prepared to go back to the Council and request that it reduce the hours even further. 

"I'm not going to tolerate this behavior in downtown Towson or anywhere else."

May 18 Stabbings

Police responded to two separate stabbing incidents near the Towson Nights hookah lounge early Sunday morning. The more serious of the two is a double stabbing that occurred just after 3:30 a.m., in which two young men -- both 22 years old -- were confronted by an unknown suspect or suspects who instigated a verbal argument that escalated to a stabbing. The victims -- who are not being identified at this time because the suspects remain at large -- had just left the hookah lounge when they were confronted by the suspects. It is unclear whether the suspects had been in the lounge.

Both victims were transported to local hospitals. One of the victims remains hospitalized with serious injuries; the other suffered non life-threatening injuries.

There is no description of the suspects at this time. An investigation by the Violent Crimes Unit is ongoing.

Earlier Sunday morning, police responded at about 2 a.m. to a fight at Burke Avenue and York Road, where they were told that a friend of one of the people involved in the fight had been stabbed earlier outside the Towson Nights hookah lounge. Investigation showed that the victim self-transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. No arrests have been made in this stabbing, and there is no suspect description at this time. The investigation by detectives at the Towson precinct is ongoing.

Police have investigated whether the two stabbing incidents might be related but have concluded that they are not connected.

New Restrictions

Under the new law, hookah lounges in existence yesterday -- the day the bill took effect -- have 45 days to comply with the new regulation. Any new lounges will be subject immediately to the earlier closing time.

Zoning violations are misdemeanors enforced by Code Enforcement as well as by police.

Update (May 15):

Baltimore County Police have released the 911 calls in reference to the incident at WMAR TV on May 13.

Call 1     Call 2     Call 3     Call 4     Call 5     Call 6     Call 7     Call 8     Call 9     Call 10

Update (May 14 2:49 p.m.):

As a result of a bail review today, Vladimir Mehul Baptiste is now being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Update (May 14):

Baltimore County Police have charged 28-year-old Vladimir Mehul Baptiste of the 1700 block of White Oak Road 21234 in connection with the incident at WMAR TV on Tuesday.

Among the charges that Vladimir Mehul Baptiste faces are three counts of attempted second degree murder. He is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $750,000 bail.

Original release (May 13):

A male suspect is in police custody after he drove a stolen truck into the ABC2 News studio around noon today and barricaded himself inside the news station.

The barricade ended around 4:35 p.m., when members of the BCoPD's Tactical Team entered the area of the building where the suspect was located and took him into custody. The suspect has not been identified pending criminal charges and has been taken to a local hospital for an emergency evaluation. Police Chief Jim Johnson said that the suspect displayed obvious signs of mental illness, including incoherent language and rants.

No injuries to officers or ABC2 employees were reported.

The incident began  shortly before noon, when Baltimore County 911 received a call for a disturbance at ABC2 News, located in the 6400 block of York Road in Precinct 6/Towson. The caller said a man was banging on the door and yelling. Within minutes, 911 received a second call reporting that someone had just rammed a large truck into the lobby of the building.

First-arriving officers did not find the suspect in the truck, and employees said they believed he was inside the station. Police evacuated station employees (one employee sheltered in place for the duration of the incident) and initiated a barricade deployment.

Tactical officers were able to determine that the suspect was on the second floor and that he was watching the situation unfold on news broadcasts. A late afternoon news briefing was delayed, Chief Johnson explained, because of concerns that officers' safety could be compromised if the suspect learned details of the operation from the television coverage.

The suspect did not leave the ABC2 building at any point during the barricade, and officers were inside the building within minutes. There was no danger to the community beyond ABC 2.

The stolen truck belonged to a Maryland State Highway Administration subcontractor and was taken just before the barricade from a location at I-695 and York Road. The vehicle was unattended when it was taken. Police found assorted working tools in the truck, including machete sheaths. No machetes were found, nor were any firearms located. There is no indication that firearms were involved at all in this incident.

Chief Johnson explained at the briefing that officers assumed the suspect to be armed, based on the fact that he had acted violently and the presence of items such as the sheaths.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Chief Johnson praised ABC2 and the St. Pius X School, located next door to the TV station, and on lockdown during the incident for their professionalism, bravery and cooperation during this difficult situation.

They also thanked the agencies that assisted with this incident, including Baltimore City Police, Maryland State Police and the SHA.

Booking photo of Vladimir Mehul Baptiste

Front entrance of WMAR TV

Over the past four years, Baltimore County has recorded fewer total homicides than during any four-year period since the Carter Administration, as well as a homicide rate that is historically low.

Nineteen homicides occurred in Baltimore County in 2013 – fewer than in 2012 (23 homicides) and 2011 (30 homicides).

Most significantly, the homicide rate – the number of homicides in proportion to the population – is far lower than since the 1970s because the population has grown by 163,000 people since then: 818,287 in 2013 compared to the mid-600,000s in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Under the current administration and Police Chief James Johnson, the homicide rate has been cut by nearly 43 percent from what it was the year Lennon was shot and Mount St. Helens erupted. In 1980, the rate was four homicides per 100,000 residents; in 2013, the rate is 2.3 homicides per 100,000 residents.

“One homicide is one crime too many,” said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.  “Still, we are pleased that by all standards our county is safer than it has ever been.”

The total number of homicides over the past four years, during the watch of the Kamenetz administration, is lower than at any continuous four-year period since 1976 to 1979.

Case Clearance Rates

Case clearance rates are a measure of how well a police agency solves crime and holds criminals accountable. BCoPD has some of the highest Part I violent crime case clearance rates in the nation – well above the national average for all Part I violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault).

BCoPD’s homicide clearance rates are so good that in September 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice featured BCoPD in a 54-page publication on best practices for homicide clearance. Researchers from the Bureau of Justice Assistance visited our Homicide Unit to examine our staffing, management, resources and investigative strategies.

The study focused on 2011, a year in which BCoPD’s 83.3 percent homicide clearance rate exceeded the national average (62 percent) by more than 21 percent.

In 2012, our homicide clearance rate was an incredible 95.7 percent, compared to the national average of 62.5 percent.

“The DOJ study found what we have known all along to be true,” said Police Chief James Johnson. “We do an exceptional job of clearing cases because we use state-of-the art technology and forensics, because our communities trust us and work with us and – most of all – because we hire, train and retain quality investigators who understand that solving crime is an academic exercise.”

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger credited BCoPD’s quality investigative work to his success in prosecuting criminals and thus reducing crime.

 “Prosecutors can only win cases that are solved,” he said. “Quality cases mean lengthy sentences.  Lengthy sentences mean criminals are not on the street to commit additional offenses.  It really is a simple equation.  The police build good cases, the prosecutors seek lengthy sentences and the criminals end up in jail.”

About Crime Statistics

BCoPD compiles crime statistics in accordance with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

In 2011, Baltimore County began presenting annual crime statistics in the context of a multi-year average, rather than simply comparing the numbers to those for the previous year. In any given year, a host of factors – weather is one of the most significant – may cause crime to spike up or down. Such short-term comparisons often do not provide a true picture of local crime.

The number of homicides in 2013 was well below the previous five-year average.

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