Howard County's reported crimes increased more than 7...


Howard County's reported crimes increased more than 7 percent last year, thanks in part to a 61 percent rise in the number of armed robberies, police records show.

And residents like attorney Mike Morucci are not surprised at the increase in crime. "Not with the uneasiness, not with the financial stress people are under," said Morucci, a 56-year-old Ellicott City resident.

"I think as the economy gets worse, people get desperate," he said.

Police have a different theory. "We attribute a lot of the increase to the continued drug activity as well as the growing populationof Howard County," said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, spokesman.

Total reported crime in the county -- violent and non-violent -- stood at nearly 19,200 incidents last year, up from about 17,900 in 1990, according to police records released Friday. Crimes ranged from murder to simple assault to prostitution to pickpocketing.

Just about every reported crime is up, except burglaries, down 9 percent from 1990 to 1,633 cases, and aggravated assault, down almost 6 percent to 385 cases.

A crime that saw a significant increase was armed robbery, whichwent from 90 incidents in 1990 to 145 in 1991.

Larceny, meanwhile, rose 15.4 percent to 5,579 cases last year.

Violent crimes -- murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- increased almost 7 percent to 574 cases last year. Nine murders -- four more than 1990 -- and 35 rapes -- one more than 1990 -- were reported last year.

Even without having seen the report, some residents say they've noticed anincrease in crime. Some, like 66-year-old Evelyn Roberts, have become wary.

"There are certain things I wouldn't do, like going to theMall alone, even in the daytime," said Roberts, a Columbia housewife.

"Every time I get out of the car, I look to see who are around me," she said.

Roberts moved to Columbia 23 years ago, when the town was just starting out, and she said with the rise in population comes a rise in crime.

"Columbia has grown," she said. "When we movedhere, there were 3,000 residents. Now there are 70,000."

She suggests Columbia increase street lights and police increase foot patrolsto combat growing crime.

Reported car thefts, which broke the record in 1990 at 970 cases, were up again. Car thefts jumped 11 percentto 1,077 cases, despite the police department's hiring of a detective to monitor car-theft activities.

"We could put 50 guys on there and it wouldn't necessarily go down," Gardner said about the number of car thefts.

l Gardner said most car thefts do not involve organized crime groups but teen-agers, making it hard for police to crack down.

"It's a growing problem, across the nation and especially in this area, where juveniles take them for joy rides," he said.

Yet police recover 90 percent of the stolen vehicles, he said.

Residents say they realize police can't monitor all cars.

"They can't watch every car," said Kenneth Wilson, a 22-year-old Columbia accountant. "People can help by putting alarms on their cars. Citizens have to take some precautions to help."

Police suggest equipping cars withClub bars, which lock the steering wheel, or J-Bars, which lock boththe steering wheel and the brakes.

"And don't leave keys in the car," said Gardner.

"A lot of people leave an extra set of set of keys in their car, which makes it easy for people to steal them."


REPORTED CRIMES 1991 .1990 % change

Murder .. .. .. .. .. 9 .. .5 .. +80.0

Rape .. .. .. .. .. .35 .. 34 .. .+2.9

Robbery .. .. .. .. 145 .. 90 .. +61.1

Aggravated assault .385 ..408 .. .-5.6

Burglary .. .. .. 1,633 1,794 .. .-9.0

Larceny .. .. .. .5,579 4,834 .. +15.4

Auto theft .. .. .1,077 ..970 ..+11.0

ARRESTS .. .. .. ..1991 .1990 % change

Drunken driving ..1,407 1,370 .. .+2.7

Drug abuse .. .. .. 685 ..812 .. -15.6

Vandalism .. .. .. .125 .. 90 .. +38.9

Weapons violations .111 ..142...-21.8

Breaking/entering ..345 ..269 .. +28.3


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