Howard records decline of 2.2% in serious crimes

February 22, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Reports of serious crimes dropped 2.2 percent in Howard County last year compared with 1991, while police brutality complaints plunged 77 percent, according to the police department's year-end crime report.

Serious crimes include murder, rape, robbery and felony assault.

County police investigated seven homicides in 1992, compared to a record nine murders the year before.

"We have been fortunate," said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a police spokesman. "We still have not seen the violence associated with the drug trade" although the county is sandwiched between Washington and Baltimore -- two cities with deadly drug violence, he said.

"Nothing is really alarming" about the crime report, he said.

The biggest change in the report's statistics was the 77 percent decline in police brutality complaints. There were two last year, down from nine filed in 1991.

Sergeant Gardner credited the decline to classes conducted for police to demonstrate excessive force and the use of OC spray, a cayenne-pepper base defense tool the department began using in November.

The spray limits physical contact, Sergeant Gardner said. "Once [suspects are] sprayed, their main goal at that point is to get the stuff out of their eyes. They're less combative," he said.

But the number of overall complaints, such as rudeness and substandard investigation, against the department rose from 103 in 1991 to 108 in 1992. Twenty-nine of those complaints were filed within the department.

Another increase was the 20.8 percent climb in robberies by firearms, up from 67 in 1991 to 81 last year. But total robberies declined 9.6 percent, from 145 in 1991 to 131 last year.

County police received reports of 37 rapes, up slightly from the 35 reported in 1991.

Meanwhile, total assaults remained almost the same -- 385 in 1991 and 386 last year.

Break-ins increased from 1,633 in 1991 to 1,673 in 1992. A spate of break-ins in Ellicott City last year helped increase forcible burglaries 9.6 percent, from 1,006 in 1991 to 1,103 in 1992.

Thefts dropped 1.4 percent, the crime report showed. At the same time, vehicle thefts decreased 13.7 percent, from 1,077 in 1991 to 929 in 1992.

Arsons declined 12.15 percent, from 81 in 1991 to 69 in 1992.

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