Violent Crimes Jump 20%, Straining Victims' Advocates

October 27, 1991|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Violent crime in Howard County increased more than 20 percent duringthe first nine months of this year, leading some county agencies to scramble for ways to help the growing number of victims.

Statistics released by police Thursday show that county homicides are up 60 percent, robberies are up 72 percent and rapes are up 28 percent, compared with the first nine months of last year. Police also reported an 18 percent increase in assaults and a 30 percent rise in auto thefts.

Statewide, murders were down 2 percent, robberies were up 17 percent and rapes were up 5 percent.

Overall crime in the county rose by 8.3 percent, compared with 9 percent statewide.

Sgt. Gary Gardner, county police spokesman, said much of the increase is a result ofthe county's growing population and the continued use of illegal drugs. But, he said, the recession also is to blame.

"I'm sure it hasan impact, but how much, it's hard to tell," he said.

Fran Price,director of Citizens Against Spousal Assault, which aids victims of domestic abuse, said her office has seen an upsurge in requests for help.

CASA expected to have 240 new clients in the fiscal year thatbegan July 1, she said. During just the first three months of the year, CASA exceeded that number by 15. Most of the clients are women and children, Price said.

The increased demand, coupled with state and county budget cuts, has forced CASA to temporarily disband two programs -- a class teaching parenting skills and a play therapy group for children.

Price attributes much of the increase to economic problems.

"As families experience financial strain -- some losing their homes, the gas and electric being turned off, the phone being turned off -- tension rises, and violence is almost inevitable," she said. "And it's not just the women who are battered. Often, children are battered as well."

Price said her staff called a one-day retreat Friday to discuss how they would provide more services with less money.

Brooke Slunt, education coordinator for the Howard County SexualAssault Center, said the center also has been receiving more calls for help. She believes the increase stems from the recession and heightened media coverage of sexual assault.

"We definitely have seen an increase in the number of calls," Slunt said. "There's been so muchin the media in the past six months about date rape, with the Kennedy case, and about sexual harassment. That probably causes a lot of (the increase)."

Slunt said the Sexual Assault Center also has seen an increase in reports of child sex abuse in the last year, which sheattributes more to the economy than the media.

"When the economy's bad, people tend to take it out on their children, unfortunately," she said.

Although violent crimes in Howard County increased at a higher rate than they did statewide, some non-violent crimes in Howard County experienced a decline. Overall, burglaries were down 5 percent and attempted burglaries decreased by 2 percent.

Larceny theft in the county increased 9 percent, compared with a 12 percent increase statewide.

Police have cleared about the same percentage of crimes in the

first nine months of this year as they did last year, with the exception of rapes, according to the county report. For rape cases, 59 percent have been cleared this year, compared with 78 percent last year. A case is considered cleared when a suspect has been charged.

Police Lt. Daniel Davis, commander of the county's Criminal Investigation Bureau, said he knew of no reason that the number of rape cases cleared this year is lower than last year's. However, he said, the number of rapes overall -- 23 this year, compared with 18 lastyear -- is low enough that a difference of 20 percent might not be significant.

COUNTY'S RISING CRIME

Figures reflect first nine months of each year.

... ... ... ... ..1990... ... .. 1991... ... Change... ... Change

Offense... ...(number)... ...(number)... ...(county)... ...(state)

Homicide... ... ... 5... ... ... .. 8... ... ... 60%... ... . -2%

Rape.. ... ... ... 18... ... ... ..23... ... ... 28%... ... . .5%

Robbery... ... ... 60... ... ... .103... ... ... 72%... ... . 17%

Assault... ... . 1451... ... ... 1716... ... ... 18%... ... . -2%

Burglary... ... .1133... ... ... 1079... ... ... -5%... ... .. 6%

Larceny theft... 3598... ... ... 3932... ... ... .9%... ... . 12%

Vehicle theft... .652... ... ... .846... ... ... 30%... ... .. 6%

Overall... ... 13,096... ... ..14,195... ... ... .8%... ... .. 9%

SOURCES: Howard County Police, Maryland State Police

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