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Crime & Justiceby Mark Reutter and Fern Shen12:17 pmMay 30, 20140

Druid Hill Park bikes were stolen by mob of threatening youths

City-owned bikes were brazenly stolen by 40-50 youths, some ejected earlier from the municipal pool for fighting

Above: Bikes at Druid Hill Park. (Baltimore City Recreation and Parks)

It was an angry group of male youths – some of them kicked out of the Druid Hill Park municipal pool for fighting – who threatened city workers on Memorial Day and stole between 40 and 50 bikes belonging to the Recreation and Parks Department, officials have confirmed.

The Brew reported last night on the mass bike theft, which was disclosed by a Rec and Parks press release without information on who were the culprits.

Spokeswoman Gwendolyn Chambers said today that shortly after the “Ride Around the Reservoir” bikes were put into position about 5:30 p.m. on Memorial Day, a mob of youth coming from the nearby municipal pool stormed the bike trailers and threatened three staff members.

“They grabbed and stole the bikes,” Chambers said of the angry crowd. One staff member was kicked, but otherwise there were no injuries.

Det. Jarron Jackson, a police spokesman, confirmed that about 50 unidentified males threatened the Rec and Parks staff.

“They were overwhelmed,” he said of the staff. Police called to the scene recovered 12 bikes when they canvassed the area. So far there have been no arrests.

The loss of about 40 bikes – out of 60 in the entire program – has resulted in the suspension of the city’s “Ride Around” program, where children and adults can spin around Druid Hill Park, Lake Montebello and Carroll Park on select days at a modest price.

Earlier Ejected from the Pool

Anne Draddy, who started the “Ride Around” program in 2006, today gave this account of the incident to The Brew: “There was some kind of ruckus in the pool. They had an overload, a lot of teens they let in without parents. They had older teens and younger children all mixed in together,” said Draddy, who now is an environmental analyst for the Department of General Services.

“The police were called to the pool and they just closed it down. There was apparently something like 100 of them,” she said. “Big teens in some cases, and they were told they couldn’t use the pool. They were angry and throwing stuff.”

Some of the youths crossed Swan Drive and stormed the area where the bikes are kept next to the path around the Druid Lake reservoir. “There was big tension. People [the staff] just stepped back. They took the bikes and rode away,” Draddy said.

Police spokesman Jackson said he had no information on the pool incident, but the group of males did come from the direction of the pool and were wearing pool-type clothes and bathing suits.

Called an Isolated Incident

Both Draddy and Chambers characterized the incident as isolated.

“I think it would be terrible if this caused people to not go to Druid Hill Park,” Draddy said. “This was really, when you think about all the years – seven, eight years – they’ve had this program, this was really an isolated incident.”

In 2007, 30 bikes were removed from the Reptile House at the Baltimore Zoo, where they had been stored. A few were recovered, but the city found 25 replacement bikes, including those taken by police from suspected criminals.

Rec and Parks is now asking the public to assist them in finding the stolen bikes, which include blue beach cruisers and blue children’s bikes each marked with a numbered sticker.

They can be returned to city recreation centers or to the agency’s headquarters building in Druid Hill Park “with no questions asked,” Chambers said.

 A “Devastating Loss”

Chris Merriam, executive director of Bikemore, called the theft “a devastating loss for the Baltimore bicycling community.” He said Rec and Parks had built an excellent program that had gotten people of all ages and backgrounds onto bicycles.

“Now citizens will be deprived of this program unless we can get some or all of them back. I hope the Baltimore community comes together to find both the bicycles and those who stole them,” he said.

“It is so sad,” said Molly Gallant, who is in charge of the program for Recreation and Parks, writing on the Bikemore Facebook page.

Gallant, an outdoor recreation programmer for the city, said the “Ride Around” program served over 3,000 people last year.

“Last fall we taught 45 2nd and 3rd graders how to ride, we were on track to expand even further this year!” she wrote. “We are doing our best to get up and running as fast as we can.”

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