Serious crime in county drops slightly in first half of 1996 Decline in assaults, arson, burglary, car thefts noted

September 18, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Though the number of serious crimes in Baltimore County dropped a fraction of a percent in the first six months of 1996 compared with the same period last year, rape, robbery, homicide and theft all posted increases, county police said yesterday.

But police cite decreases in aggravated assaults, motor vehicle thefts, burglary and arson -- along with a recent crackdown on robbery -- as evidence that the county is fighting back against crime.

"Our officers' more timely response to crimes puts more offenders in jail and will hopefully decrease the incident rates," said Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan, who said that in the first half of 1996 robbery arrests were up 37 percent and homicide arrests up 72 percent.

Total crime in the county -- including lesser offenses such as narcotics violations and disorderly conduct -- rose 3.5 percent.

But while robberies increased 10 percent -- to 1,271 from 1,159 -- police say the pace of robbery has eased some in recent months, after formation of a countywide robbery task force.

Sheridan said police will continue to explore ways to decrease the numbers, including cooperation with residents groups and committees such as the one formed recently to investigate the increase in juvenile arrests.

Offenders under age 18 made up 37 percent of all arrests for serious crimes in the first half of 1996.

Maj. Dennis M. Robinson of the Woodlawn Precinct said officers' awareness of the robbery problem, increased patrols and quicker crime analysis are helping to bring the numbers down.

"We are hoping the trend continues," said Robinson, who coordinates the task force's west side division. "We have probably locked up enough of [the robbers] that we are getting )) some of the repetitive offenders off the streets and preventing them from committing more crimes."

County Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, said he has conveyed his constituents' concerns about auto theft and robbery to officials and has been pleased with the response.

In addition to the task force, the chief has directed that department helicopters be used in pursuing car thieves, avoiding the risk of high-speed chases, Kamenetz said.

"The two hot buttons in this county are the quality of schools and crime," said Kamenetz, who serves as council president. "I don't jTC expect [Sheridan] to work miracles overnight, and I get the sense that morale among the officers is improving and that this chief is willing to try new strategies."

Among the highlights of the six-month crime statistics released yesterday:

Twenty-two homicides were committed in the first half of the year, compared with 14 in the first half of last year.

Rape rose to 138 incidents from 124.

Theft increased to 12,244 incidents, from 12,057.

Aggravated assault decreased to 2,360 cases from 2,376.

Motor vehicle theft dropped to 2,374 incidents from 2,581.

Burglary decreased to 3,191 cases from 3,362.

Arson dropped to 186 incidents, from 193.

Pub Date: 9/18/96

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