- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Some burglars are taking to rooftops — shinnying down ventilation shafts to infiltrate businesses or cutting their way in with portable tools — in an apparent effort to evade ground-floor alarm systems.

Police in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore counties have reported a rash of rooftop break-ins over the past several months, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun.

In Glenwood, a community in western Howard County, a burglar climbed down a ventilation shaft and entered Fafi’s dry-cleaning shop three weeks ago without tripping alarms — but netted only about $30 from a cash register.

Days later, the same technique was used to burglarize two Anne Arundel County dry cleaners.

In a more sophisticated approach, a burglar in March cut a hole in the roof of Mangia’s Italian Grill and Sports Cafe in Woodstock, crawled above a drop ceiling and climbed down into the manager’s office without triggering alarms. The burglar cracked open a safe, stole an unspecified amount of cash and left the way he had entered.

A day later, Rocky Run Tap & Grill in Columbia was struck using the same method.

“It was very creative,” Rocky Run co-owner Burt Donnelly told the Sun. “It’s something that we as restaurant owners never dreamt of happening. We never dreamt somebody would come equipped with the equipment to chop a hole in the [roof]. It was very innovative. I hate to say that.”

Other counties have experienced similar incidents.

This month, a Carroll County dry cleaner fell victim to a prowler who sneaked down its ventilation shaft. Baltimore County businesses have been burglarized four times this year from rooftop entries, police said. In one incident, someone cut a hole in the roof of the Hereford Pharmacy in Parkton in northern Baltimore County and stole a cache of prescription drugs, a store manager said.

Police have not made any arrests in these burglaries, but say some may be connected.

Security experts say rooftop burglaries remain uncommon, but that there are ways to secure a building, including low-cost measures such as blocking shafts using sturdy metal bars, and high-tech gadgets like video surveillance, photoelectric beams, motion detectors or vibration sensors on a roof.

Unfortunately, such measures are usually adopted after a business owner has been burglarized, said Jeff Smith, commercial sales and installation manager for Vintage Security in Columbia.

“That’s the shame of our business,” Mr. Smith said. “I couldn’t tell you how many calls we get after somebody breaks in.”

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