A look at quarterly crime statistics released last week by county police shows that the severe winter weather might have slowed up some criminals, but apparently not the car thieves.
Overall, the number of serious crimes -- such as burglaries and thefts -- declined 10.3 percent in the first three months of 1994 compared with the same period last year.
The total number of criminal incidents dropped from 2,268 to 2,033, according to the report.
However, some crimes, particularly car thefts, continued to climb.
Sgt. Steven Keller, spokesman for the department, attributes the decrease in some crimes to an increase in arrests and the harsh winter weather.
Reported burglaries, for example, dropped from 282 in the first quarter of 1993 to 218 in the first three months of this year, and attempted burglaries fell from 47 to 42.
"Criminals are just like the rest of us," Sergeant Keller said. "They don't want to be out and stealing something. . . . It's kind of hard for a burglar to break into your house and carry away a TV in an ice storm."
On the flip side, the winter weather may have been responsible for an increase in other crimes, particularly assaults, Sergeant Keller said.
Assaults, incidents ranging from people who throw punches to those pointing weapons, jumped 16.4 percent in the quarter, from 456 to 531, the report says.
"Maybe more people were suffering from cabin fever," Sergeant Keller said. "When they got out, they got out of hand."
Regardless of the weather, the number of vehicle thefts continued to rise in the county, to 286 from 270, the report says.
The report shows a trend of increasing vehicle thefts in Howard. In 1992, 929 vehicle thefts were reported; police handled 1,079 thefts in 1993, according to department statistics.
Sergeant Keller attributes many of the car thefts to teen-age joy-riders.
The sergeant said motorists can prevent many of the thefts by keeping their vehicles' doors locked, installing alarm systems or using steering wheel locks.
Statistics for other serious crimes are a mixed bag.
Thefts dropped 22 percent, from 1,185 incidents in the first quarter of 1993 to 922 for the same period this year, the report says.
Robberies inched up to 25 from 23.
The department handled seven rapes and one attempted rape in the quarter, up from four rapes and one attempted rape for the same quarter last year, the report says.
Police also investigated one homicide, the March 5 slaying of 25-year-old James Wayne Landon Jr. of Laurel. Dennis Donald Ingram of Laurel was arrested and is awaiting trial in Howard Circuit Court. The department did not handle any homicides in the first quarter of 1993.
Though the total number of serious crimes was down in the quarter, minor crimes -- such as drug violations, vandalism and drunken driving -- increased, to 2,001 from 1,790.
Police arrested 1,231 adults and 348 juveniles in the quarter, compared with 915 adults and 279 juveniles in the first quarter of last year.