BALTIMORE, Md.—Pizza delivery drivers in and around Baltimore are concerned about a recent increase in armed robberies of drivers.
According to The Jeffersonian, nine robberies or attempted robberies of drivers--plus one pizza store robbery--were reported from Dec. 15 through Jan. 2, according to Baltimore County police.
The incidents all occurred between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., "when it wouldn't be too hard to find" a pizza driver making a delivery anywhere in the area," said Lt. Stephen Doarnberger, a spokesman for the Franklin Precinct. "These were different in that they were all verified deliveries, not false phone calls coming in, which have been a problem in the past."
According to police, in most of the incidents, suspects approached the drivers after the delivery was made and as they headed back to their vehicles. The suspects displayed a black automatic handgun and demanded money.
Police have two theories about how the robbers have intercepted the drivers: by lurking around residences waiting for pizza drivers to show up, or following drivers as they leave pizza shops on delivery runs.
Officers are visiting pizza shops throughout the northwest area to inform employees of the string of robberies and handing out brochures offering tips on keeping drivers safe.
After an attempted robbery of a driver from a Papa's John's in Reisterstown, Md., the store temporarily stopped using lighted signs on the delivery vehicles, said general manager Chris Morrill. "You don't want to be a moving target."
Tim Lockwood, treasurer of the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers, said most people don't realize that pizza delivery is the fifth-most dangerous occupation, according to an October 2003 study by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"This is an occupation that has some real dangers in it," said Lockwood, a Hendersonville, Tenn., driver who has delivered pizzas for about 10 years, despite being robbed twice. "We tell every driver, 'Pull away if you don't feel safe.'"
He advises drivers to call customers en route.
"From a tip standpoint, it lets them know their pizza is on the way and you are not off in Egypt somewhere," he said. "From a safety standpoint, if you call and don't get an answer, or the person just sounds weird and a bit squirrely, then the driver is alert to that. When you can't pinpoint what's exactly wrong, but you know something isn't right, turn back."