Crime declines 3.4% in 1993 community policing credited

February 06, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

Crime may be the most important issue cited in recent national opinion polls, but Howard police say year-end county crime statistics released last week are encouraging.

Overall, crime dropped 3.4 percent in 1993, an improvement police attribute to the success of community-oriented policing, a partnership in which residents and officers work together to prevent and resolve crime.

Police Chief James Robey turned the long-held ideal into department policy when he took office in March 1991, initiating programs uniting officers, businesses and residents.

"There are more people involved in assisting police," said Sgt. Steve Keller, police spokesman. "We want people to call so we can help solve problems."

On the down side, car thefts were up 16 percent last year, with many of the thefts being carried out by joy-riding teen-agers, police say. In 1992, 929 vehicle thefts were reported; police handled 1,079 thefts in 1993.

Though police said there is an 85 percent recovery rate, there were only 173 arrests for vehicle thefts in 1993, statistics show.

With just one in 10 reported vehicle thefts resulting in an arrest, one county officer was assigned last fall to a statewide task force to study patterns of vehicle thefts and to coordinate investigations across county lines.

Crimes classified as Part I offenses -- which include murder, rape and robbery -- showed a decrease of only 3.4 percent, from 8,733 incidents in 1992 to 8,436 in 1993.

Of the four homicides in Howard in 1993, one case remains unsolved -- the murder last summer of 15-year-old Tara Gladden of Columbia.

Reported cases of breaking and entering dropped to 1,493 last year from 1,673 in 1992.

Property crime supervisor Sgt. Stephan Prozeralik said the arrests of several career burglars cut down on the number of burglaries in some parts of the county.

Break-ins tapered off in the Long Reach area, for instance, after police arrested a Baltimore couple in December. They were linked to more than 20 burglaries in the east Columbia area during the last two months of last year.

The two were arrested on rogue and vagabond charges and later confessed to some of the burglaries. The man and woman, equipped with burglary tools, were arrested after running from police when they were confronted in a Long Reach neighborhood.

A 5 percent increase in service calls, 89,000 compared to about 84,000 in 1992, accompanied a population jump of about 4,000 people from 1992 to 1993.

Police say a 7 percent increase in arrests -- 5,952 compared to 5,549 the previous year -- was attributable in part to increased staffing with the hiring of 39 officers in mid-December.

Police Chief Robey has requested 15 new officers in his budget proposal to the county for fiscal 1995, an increase that will cost about $675,000.

"The more cops you put on the street, the apprehension and prevention rate will go up," Sergeant Keller said.

County police logged 223 liquor law violations in 1993, up from 199 citations in 1992. Last year, police made 389 arrests -- 75 more than in 1992 -- for a variety of liquor law violations, including selling alcohol after hours, failure to control customers or selling to drunken patrons.

Tougher enforcement of alcohol policy through covert purchases underage cadets led to several liquor stores being fined by the county liquor board last year. Under a new county law that went into effect Wednesday, cashiers can face criminal charges for selling to minors.

"The establishments need to get on their toes," said Detective Holly Burnham, county liquor inspector. "They were getting relaxed with it."

Police say their increased presence on county roads led to a decline in people driving under the influence of alcohol, measured by 1,214 arrests in 1993 compared with 1,285 in 1992.

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