Cornell Anderson Jr. shuffled down a dark alley in North Baltimore when he spotted light seeping from a rowhouse’s rear screen door. He slashed through the screen, popped the latch, and stepped inside, grabbing a cell phone and a leather purse from a kitchen countertop. He hustled down a narrow hallway, swiping a leather bag from a door handle. Later, Kelly Williams, a 32-year-old mother of two young children, noticed her purse, wallet, credit cards, and car keys gone, and then discovered that her minivan was also stolen. The family, no longer feeling safe, left Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Anderson is a 28-year-old career criminal, the Sun says; Williams’ rowhouse was one of more than 40 homes he hit during a four-month spree last year. “Burglary is probably one of the most intrusive crimes that can happen to someone,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Clark. “Property crimes, ultimately, are going to deal with people’s true thoughts about whether they feel safe in the city.”
Baltimore endured high rates of property and violent crime in the 1990s, much of it attributed to the drug trade. In that same decade, the population declined 11.5 percent. To attract and retain residents, Mayor Martin O’Malley launched a new attack on crime three years ago. He beefed up the police department and insisted that officers, who once treated property offenses largely as an afterthought, be more accountable for solving crimes. He increased drug treatment slots, hoping to reduce the number of addicts who prey on neighborhoods.
The tactics appear to be making a difference – the city recorded a 15 percent decrease in overall crime and an 18 percent decline in burglaries from 2000 to 2002. Still, nearly 9,000 break-ins were reported last year in Baltimore.
The Sun profiles burglar Anderson, who served time for a string of about 40 break-ins in North Baltimore in 1999, and then was released from prison in late 2001 to get drug and mental health treatment. He soon slipped back into addiction, resuming a $300-a-day heroin and cocaine habit. He also wanted about $700 more each day to supply drugs to new friends in East Baltimore and to buy clothes.