The number of women who reported being raped in Howard County jumped 90 percent during the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to a new police study.
Twenty-one women -- up from 11 last year -- reported being raped in the county between January and June, according to the semiannual crime summary.
Overall, crime in the county rose nearly 5 percent during the six-month period. Violent crimes overall, including rape, murder, robbery and assault, decreased 4 percent while property crimes such as burglary, theft and car theft increased 3 percent, according to the report released Monday.
Carol McCullough, executive director of the Howard County Sexual Assault Center, cites a number of factors that may have contributed to the rise in reported rapes.
"We're having an increase in population, and an increase in population brings a proportional increase in crime," she said. "The William Kennedy Smith case and the Centennial rapist trial drew a lot of attention to the crime of rape and encouraged a lot of people to report it."
And, in economically difficult times, she said, employment or financial insecurities could prompt some men to relieve their stress through violence.
"I'm sure that's still much lower than the actual numbers that have occurred," she said. "I don't think we'll ever achieve 100 percent reporting."
She urges rape victims to step forward: "Report it, otherwise that rapist is going to rape somebody else. As tough as it is to come forth, you're going to save somebody else from that same fate by reporting it."
Other offenses, including drug-related incidents, rose 7.9 percent, explaining the increase in crime overall. Police are cautious about the numbers.
"We're certainly pleased with the decrease in violent crimes," said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a police spokesman. "However, we'll have to wait until the end of the year for the big picture, to see if crime has really increased. Six months is too short of a period to come up with something that's definitive."
Three people, including a home tutor strangled by a 16-year-old student in March, were slain this year compared with six during the same period last year. Police also report that 1,030 people were assaulted and 54 people or businesses -- two less than last year -- were robbed. Last year, the number of assault victims totaled 1,082 for the period.
Burglaries increased to 679 incidents, seven more than for the same six months last year. Those numbers do not include a recent bout of break-ins -- 40 along a Columbia street in one month.
"I think we'll see burglaries, auto thefts and robberies increase in the second half if we see a continuation of the trend we see in the months of July and August," Sergeant Gardner said. "The 40-plus cat-burglaries in July is . . . above what we normally have. That's certainly going to reflect in the crime picture."
Close to 1,800 motorists -- or about 200 more drivers -- got into car accidents this year, a 10 percent increase over the same period last year. Six people -- three of them in alcohol-related accidents -- died on county roads so far this year, compared with 11 last year.
Non-vehicle thefts jumped 8.6 percent to 2,675, while car thefts decreased 12.3 percent to 364.
"We're still maintaining a pace of 1,000 cars or more," Sergeant Gardner said about the number of car thefts police expect to log at year's end. "The problem with auto thefts is like robbery and burglary. We may have a period when we have a significant number, and all of a sudden, we don't have one for several months."
Crime statistics, January to June
Crime... ... ... '92 ... ...'91... ... % diff.
Murder... ... .... 3... ... . 6... ... - 50
Manslaughter... ...1... ... . 0... ... + 100
Rape ... ... ... .21... .... 11... ... + 90.9
Robbery... ... .. 54... .... 56... ... - 3.6
Assault ... ...1,029... . 1,082... ... - 4.9
Burglary ... ....679... ... 672... ... + 1
Car theft ... ...498... ... 565... ... - 11.9