Violent crimes in county rose 7 percent last year

March 05, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Maryland State PoliceSun Staff Writer

Violent crimes -- homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults -- increased nearly 7 percent in Harford County last year.

In a preliminary crime report that includes figures for all crimes handled by state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies operating in Harford County, homicides and robberies jumped significantly, while rapes dropped dramatically. In the same period, violent crime was down 4 percent across the state.

The homicide statistics for the county, from none in 1993 to five in 1994, did not alarm Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows.

"We've been lucky to have so few, none in 1993," the sheriff said. "Five in 1994 was five too many, so we don't want to make light of them." The sheriff said increased population and decreased police presence has led to the increased crime rate.

"Look how the Abingdon, Edgewood, and Joppa areas have grown in the last few years," the sheriff said. "Statistically, you will have more crime with such a growth."

Three homicides last year occurred in connection with suicides.

A Jarrettsville woman was fatally shot Feb. 25, 1994, by her estranged husband, who then shot himself.

The bodies of an Edgewood woman and her son were found July 27 after deputies went to their house to inform them that the woman's husband and boy's father had committed suicide in Nevada.

In the most recent 1994 homicide, a Joppatowne man was found shot in the head Oct. 29. Sheriff's detectives arrested the victim's fiance and her new boyfriend last week. A fifth homicide listed for 1994 occurred in 1993, but no charges were brought until last March.

According to Circuit Court records, Harry Phillip Gross was charged with fatally shooting his wife, Clara, on March 7, 1993. His case ended in a mistrial in July when a Circuit Court jury failed to reach a verdict.

Robberies also soared last year, to 122 from 84. "Sure, it's very troubling, seeing robbery is up 45 percent," said Joseph I. Cassilly, state's attorney for Harford County.

"There's not a whole lot that can be done that isn't already being done about it," he said.

Mr. Cassilly cited increased patrols and surveillance units for a number of arrests and recent prosecutions against bank robbers in Harford, especially in the Abingdon area, where about eight robberies were committed from December 1993 through February 1994.

Rapes declined 41 percent last year, to 34 from 58.

Sgt. Edward Hopkins, a sheriff's spokesman, said women have become more aware of potential problems.

"Seminars advising women to park in lighted areas and not travel alone appear to be a key in reducing the number of rapes in the county," he said.

Aggravated assaults were up 5.5 percent, to 419 from 397.

Mr. Cassilly and Sergeant Hopkins said reports of domestic assaults were much higher last year, accounting for the increase.

Mr. Cassilly challenged county residents to help stem the recent rash of motor vehicle thefts. The number of such thefts was up 23.6 percent last year, to 403.

Vehicle thefts were up 13 percent statewide last year.

"Individuals have to help themselves a little," Mr. Cassilly said. "They have to stop leaving their keys in the ignition and begin to lock their car doors. These kinds of invitations to steal a car are very preventable."

Among other nonviolent crimes, breaking and entering incidents were down 8 percent, but larcenies rose 5.6 percent.

Arson, which is not included in the report's total crimes, increased 9 percent, to 35 from 32.

The final report, which is published in book form, will be available later this year.


=1 ............ ...... 1993 .... 1994 .. Change

Homicide ........ ....... 0 ....... 5 ..... --

Rape ............ ...... 58 ...... 34 ..... 41

Robbery ......... ...... 84 ..... 122 .... +45

Aggravated assault .... 397 ..... 419 ... +5.5

Breaking/entering ... 1,315 ... 1,213 ...... 8

Larceny ............. 3,500 ... 3,695 ... +5.6

Vehicle theft ......... 326 ..... 403 .. +23.6

Total ............... 5,680 ... 5,889 .. +3.7%

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