Violent crime drops 4.7% in Balto. Co.

November 01, 1994|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Violent crime in Baltimore County dropped by 4.7 percent in the first nine months of 1994, compared with last year's figures for the same period, but overall crime increased by 2.2 percent, largely as a result of a continuing rise in auto thefts.

Homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies -- the violent crime categories -- were all down.

However, despite a joint city-county auto theft task force created in July, the arrest of 93 suspects and the recovery of more than 80 percent of the cars stolen, auto thefts were up by 21.8 percent, the largest increase of any category.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden, who released the figures yesterday along with Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill, pointed to the decrease in violent crimes as proof that his anti-crime efforts are working.

"We're solving more of these cases," said Mr. Hayden, who is running for re-election. "Zero would be our number of choice in all of these statistics, but there are some real positives in these numbers. Violent crime is down in every category."

Statistics showed homicides down by four, from 22 to 18 for the corresponding period in 1993.

Rapes were down by 5.3 percent, robberies by 9.2 percent and aggravated assaults by 2.5 percent.

Chief Gambrill said he was optimistic about the decreases and said 89 percent of the homicide cases have been solved. However, he conceded that "murder tends to go up in the fourth quarter."

Six homicides occurred in October, five of which are unsolved.

In terms of property crime, theft rose by 4.6 percent and arson was up by 20 percent, due in part to the burning of vehicles, which is now included in this category. Burglaries fell by 10.9 percent, the first decrease since 1990 and the lowest first nine-month total in 15 years.

In a fiercely contested county executive battle, Mr. Hayden and Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, his Democratic opponent in next Tuesday's general election, tried to put their own spin on the figures.

While the Hayden camp talked about the decrease in violent crimes, Robert Barrett, campaign manager for Mr. Ruppersberger, focused on the overall crime increase.

"The bottom line as we go into the holiday season is that crime is up," Mr. Barrett said. "I don't feel safer."

Besides homicides and auto theft, the number of cases solved in the other categories was not available yesterday.

That point piqued Lt. Timothy Caslin's curiosity.

"It would be interesting to know why the clearance rates were not included," said Lieutenant Caslin, president of the county's Fraternal Order of Police lodge. "I'm disappointed in the increase, . . . but I can understand it because our investigators are working short-handed."

He said the criminal investigation division has 31 vacancies.

"What we're witnessing is the result of Mr. Hayden's cutting of the Police Department early in his administration," Mr. Ruppersberger said. "Our police continue to suffer from those cuts."

MA The FOP has endorsed Mr. Ruppersberger in the executive race.

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