Anne Arundel County police said they have cracked a theft ring in which persons were able to order merchandise from an individual who then stole the needed items from parked railroad boxcars.

Twelve persons were being sought in connection with the burglary and theft-on-order scheme, police said, including an 18-year-old resident who allegedly took the orders for whiskey, cigarettes and television sets and then stole them from Conrail boxcars parked in a freight yard.

All other individuals sought are being charged with buying stolen merchandise, Lt. George N. Mandris said yesterday.

"In the past, we would just recover the stolen property and not charge the individual with receiving it, even though it is a criminal offense," Mandris said.

"But what we're trying to do is decrease the number of burglaries. If there is not outlet for stolen merchandise, there's no need to steal."

Police raided 11 county homes Tuesday after a month-long investigation and recovered $50,000 worth of property stolen during 73 home burglaries in several Maryland counties. Northern Virginia and Delaware, and 15 boxcar thefts.

The investigation is continuing, police said, and more people will be arrested for the thefts.

The recovered property included 45 firearms, microwave ovens, outboard motors, stolen cars and trucks, telephones, a set of lock picks, rug shampoo machines, drills, car radios, eight-track tape decks and chain saws.

Mandris said the stolen property ring was a professional operation based in Anne Arundel County. It branched out to the counties and states to avoid being indentified by other area thieves and police informants.

The police said they are beginning a new project termed Operation Awareness in an attempt to reduce the market for stolen merchandise. They will be asking bartenders in pool halls, restaurants and bars to keep an eye out for anyone trying to fence stolen property.