$30,000 reward offered for arrest of Laurens Street carjackers

An unnamed Baltimore donor has offered up to a $30,000 reward for information leading to charges against the young men who assaulted Ward Bucher and his son outside their home on Laurens Street on SundayJan. 7. Baltimore Police are circulating a flyer inviting tipsters to contact Sgt. Novak at Metro Crime Stoppers by phone at 866-756-2587 or online at metrocrimestoppers.org . Informants are promised anonymity.

Bucher, 77, and his son, Jack, were unloading groceries at their home around 6:45 p.m. on that day when two black SUVs pulled behind and alongside them. Several young men or boys jumped out and began beating them, demanding keys to their car. Bucher, a preservation architect, sustained a fractured clavicle, fractures in two vertebrae, a broken rib and head trauma. He underwent brain surgery at UMMC as a result of the attack and is recovering at home. Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks wrote about the incident.

It was the most serious of a series of carjacking attempts in the neighborhood and across the city in recent months. While the mayor makes much of the decline in homicides in Baltimore (as in most cities across the nation) last year, he has said little about car thefts and carjackings. According to the Baltimore Sun, about 9,300 cars were stolen in the city in the first 10 months of last year, up from 2,832 over the same period in 2022. Many did not involve violence.

Bucher’s wife, Lisa Johnson, has encouraged BHCA’s Safety Committee to look for ways that neighborhood residents can be better protected against crime, short of guards on every corner. “We must do what we can to make the neighborhood environment more inconvenient and difficult for people who come here with criminal intentions,” she said.

Her suggestions:

  • A Bolton Hill traffic study led by traffic and civil engineers to make recommendations to refigure the neighborhood’s traffic patterns. For example, angled one-way traffic could be implemented as well as blocking the through streets so there are no quick east-west getaway arteries. “There could be one-way traffic flow, and angled parking, on the east side of Laurens Street going toward Eutaw Place, then have one-way traffic flow from the west side of Laurens Street going toward Eutaw Place. Of course, it would be up to the traffic engineers to determine whether this could work,” she said.  Baltimore police say that streets that run uninterrupted through Bolton Hill north to North Avenue and beyond or east/west to and from west Baltimore make it easy for wrongdoers to come in, commit a crime, and exit quickly.
  • “Ward and I are in favor of having a comprehensive License Plate Recognition camera system (LPR) installed throughout the Bolton Hill neighborhood. It is my understanding Federal Hill has implemented this and there have been favorable reports.”
  • A comprehensive camera system block-by-block so that there are no areas of the neighborhood lacking coverage. BHCA has a voluntary neighborhood camera network, but some blocks have few or no cameras.  The onus should not be on citizens to provide this protection or appropriate lighting for the neighborhood.
  • More steel drop package boxes for front stoops and vestibules to combat porch pirating. “We installed one a few years ago and the thefts vanished.” She suggested a neighborhood bulk order program could hold down the costs.
  • She also favors a balanced approach in dealing with juvenile offenders. “I am all in favor of giving a break to the young who make mistakes and may lack direction and/or knowledge. I would be in favor of a measured three-strikes policy of some kind. And when infractions are made within that policy, have offenders receive remedial resources and care — so they have the opportunity to make amends and to learn the law, learn to make better decisions, learn how their actions have consequences, and take a better road in life.”