County crime is down 5.2% in first nine months of the year But auto thefts and robberies jumped in same period

November 08, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Overall crime in Howard County decreased 5.2 percent in the first nine months of this year compared with the first nine months of 1992, despite a 14.3 percent rise in auto theft and a 5.8 percent jump in robberies.

According to the latest quarterly crime report, the county saw a 3.7 percent drop in the most serious crimes -- murder, rape, robbery, assaults, burglary, vehicle theft and theft -- in the first nine months of the year.

The most serious crimes declined to a total of 7,525 in the first three quarters, down from 7,813 incidents in the same period last year.

Less serious crimes, including simple assault, disorderly conduct, and vandalism, decreased 7 percent to 6,149 incidents in the first nine months of this year, compared with 6,611 incidents in the same period last year.

John C. Maitland, a member of the county Police Citizens Advisory Council, praised the police department for the overall drop in crime but remained cautious about long-term implications.

"We have a pretty good police force working for us," Mr. Maitland said. But he added, "This is only [part-way] through the year."

So far this year, there have been three homicides in the county, compared with five at this point last year.

Police Sgt. Gary Gardner said the drop in homicides so far this year is not significant and that the number fluctuates from year to year.

"We normally have five or six a year, sometimes we've had nine, or two," he said.

He also said the increases in auto theft and robbery, including bank robberies, mirror statewide crime trends.

"Auto theft is a crime we've seen rise steadily in the past five years," Sergeant Gardner said, "not only in Howard County, but in the state and other states as well."

He blamed many of this year's 617 auto thefts on youngsters looking for a joy ride, who are able to bypass elaborate security systems and break into cars within 30 seconds.

"It's exciting on a Friday night to go out and steal a car, take it for a joy ride and then dump it in another jurisdiction," Sergeant Gardner said.

He also said the increase in robberies, 91 so far this year compared with 86 in 1992, is within the normal range.

"We have waves," Sergeant Gardner said. "It fluctuates constantly. Sometimes you have a small number of people responsible for a large number of robberies."

The report also showed that burglary, both forced entry and non-forced entry, was down 16 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of traffic fatalities dropped by one, to 12 so far this year. Of the 10 accidents involving fatalities so far this year, four were alcohol-related. Last year, five were alcohol-related.

Among other crimes in the county, rape dropped 50 percent to 14 incidents in the first nine months of this year, down from 28 for the same period last year.

Assaults in general increased 1.4 percent to 1,557 incidents in the first nine months of this year from 1,536 in 1992.

Sergeant Gardner said the quarterly report is meant to give county residents a snapshot of crime in the area, rather than a conclusive indication of how well police are fighting crime.

"It acts as a barometer or guide for how [the] county is doing," he said. "We see our county has mirrored the state."

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