Shomrim on ‘higher alert’ after numerous carjackings in Northwest Baltimore

Etz Chaim Center
Google Maps screenshot of Etz Chaim Center in Baltimore.

Numerous carjackings have been reported in Northwest Baltimore this past month, putting Baltimore Shomrim, a Jewish safety patrol group, on “higher alert” for vehicles that have been stolen, said Nathan Willner, Shomrim’s general counsel.

In a statement on their Facebook page, the Baltimore Police Department said on Nov. 18 that “[t]oday, the Baltimore Police Department announced the arrest of 14 individuals responsible for several carjackings and stolen autos, mostly targeting residents in the Northwest District. Detectives closed 10 carjacking and stolen auto incidents, with eight of them occurring in the Northwest District and one each in the Southeast and Southwest Districts.”

One attempted carjacking took place at the Etz Chaim Center in Baltimore the night of Nov. 9. According to a Baltimore Police Department report, at approximately 7:35 p.m., a married couple was in the Etz Chaim parking lot when a black Sienna van pulled in, and a man, armed with a gun, exited the vehicle. After threatening the pair, he fled the scene in the van after one of the victims began banging on the window of the Etz Chaim Center. The report stated that a second suspect was in the van during the incident. There were no reported injuries, and the report does not state that the suspects left with any stolen property.

According to Etz Chaim’s director, Rabbi Zev Pomeranz, the suspect had demanded the couple’s car keys. He added that, at the time of the attempted robbery, Etz Chaim’s security cameras did not have coverage over the specific area of the parking lot where the incident took place. Pomeranz stated that Etz Chaim is planning to install new security cameras that should provide full coverage of the parking lot. The building currently has locks installed, he added, and Etz Chaim is not looking at hiring an armed guard for the parking lot.

“Unfortunately there’s just been a tremendous amount of carjackings in this neighborhood the last few days,” Pomeranz said on Nov. 12, basing his claim on conversations he’d had with his neighbors and friends. “It’s not an isolated incident.”

Pomeranz’s appraisal of the situation was largely supported by Willner, who said that on “that day, starting at about 8 a.m., there were four other carjackings in the area.” While he could not say if they were all directly related or if the same suspects were involved with some or all of them, it was nonetheless clear to him that the local neighborhood had seen “multiple carjackings to a level we’ve not seen previously occurring within a 24-hour period.”

Willner added that there had been a number of other carjackings prior to Nov. 9 as well.

Shomrim has been working closely with Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who represents Baltimore’s 5th District, which encompasses the Etz Chaim Center. Willner said the councilman is “a conduit and liaison between the community and the police department.”

According to Willner, after Shomrim learned of the Etz Chaim incident, members “created a perimeter around the area to make sure that if there were suspects that were leaving the area, there’d be someone that could see what vehicle they were in, in what direction of travel they were going.”

Shomrim also had help from someone looking down on them from on high, Willner said: the Baltimore Police’s Foxtrot aviation unit, whose helicopters were able to follow suspect vehicles in real time.

“It’s because of all these pieces that were primed and ready to respond that we had a favorable result in this case, where … the suspects were able to be tracked and that evening, my understanding, two suspects were taken into custody as a result of all that,” Willner said.

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