Bat-Wielding Vandals Hit Dozens of Vehicles

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007

In the quiet bedroom community of Crofton, the rampage yesterday began before dawn. The weapon of choice was a baseball bat, and the targets were vehicles, at least 40 of them, parked in front of apartments, townhouses and houses in western Anne Arundel County.

The vandals were "just randomly picking vehicles and smacking them with a bat" as they drove by, said Cpl. Mark Shawkey, a county police spokesman. They damaged mirrors, windows, windshields, lights and taillights, he said -- "basically anything they could hit or smash."

"There was no rhyme or reason to it," he said. "No pattern."

The vandalism continued until a resident spotted and followed the suspects' vehicle, relaying information to authorities. Shortly after 4:30 a.m., authorities said, police zeroed in on a vehicle occupied by two teenagers. They fled on foot but were captured, police said.

Police charged Steven A. Zell, 18, of Crofton and Timothy M. Hepperle, 19, of Glen Burnie with one count of malicious destruction of property for each vehicle that was damaged, as well as with a malicious destruction of property scheme.

Efforts to reach the two or their attorneys were unsuccessful. A request for comment from a relative of one of the teens was declined.

Shawkey said the spree was part of "a joy ride, nothing better to do than drive out and destroy people's property."

County police investigated 9,007 incidences of destruction of property last year, but Shawkey said the Crofton spree was unusual because of the time of year -- such incidents usually occur during the summer, when school is out -- and because the assailants targeted cars rather than mailboxes.

"It's very, very rare for the scope of this to occur," he said. "The amount of property damage, the number of vehicles."

Police responded to reports of damaged cars at the 1600 block of Forest Hill Court, but Shawkey said damage occurred across "the entire Crofton area."

For Madonna Brennan, a member of Crofton First, the community association that helped block a Wal-Mart from being built in the area, the spree reinforced concerns about property destruction in Crofton, which was ranked by Money magazine this year as one of the top 100 places to live.

"Over the last few years, we've seen an increase in vandalism," Brennan said. She said there has been a recent "rash of busting windows" in cars to steal Global Positioning System equipment or "anything that's not attached."

How many Crofton residents were victims of the spree remains unclear. Though a police news release said 40 vehicles were known to have been damaged, Shawkey said he expected that number to grow.

"It's probably going to be as late as Monday when we know all the totals," he said.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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