Crimes against people increase Successful effort to reduce robberies scheduled to end

September 18, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Howard County Police Department, "Semi-Annual Crime Report," comparing the period January to June 1996 with the period January to June 1995. Pub Date: 9/18/96 SUN STAFF

Howard County released crime figures yesterday for the first half of 1996 that follow a familiar pattern: Crimes against property are falling at the same time that crimes against people are increasing.

Police officials say the rise in violent crimes has been stemmed in the 12 weeks since the second quarter ended -- in large part because of a robbery suppression program that targeted certain areas of Columbia where there had been an increase in street-level crimes against people.

But even while touting the successes of the suppression program -- including 44 arrests for such offenses as drug possession and driving while intoxicated -- the Police Department is preparing to put it on hold. It ends Friday, and police officials say they're not sure when or where it might resume.

"The department will have to determine whether our resources can continue this kind of focus," said Sgt. Steven Keller, a Howard police spokesman. "Many of the hours spent on the program were overtime hours. It's a cost factor."

Meanwhile, the crime data for the first half of this year show: Crimes against property -- burglaries, vehicle thefts and other thefts -- were down 6.6 percent during January through June of this year compared with last year.

Violent crimes against people -- murders, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies -- rose 77 percent during the same period.

Juvenile arrests for violent crimes increased from 33 during the first six months of 1995 to 81 in 1996.

More than half of the juvenile arrests were related to robberies. Officials with police, health, schools and other agencies have been trying to find ways to stem the rising tide of juvenile crime.

Some residents are urging police to continue the robbery suppression program to help prevent street crimes by juveniles and adults.

"People are generally happy seeing that increased police presence," said David Hatch, village board chairman for Columbia's Oakland Mills -- one of two villages targeted by the robbery suppression program. "It can't help but be an important factor.

"I think concern for crime is a general fact of life for urban dwellers," he said. "That's not just for Oakland Mills. That's for all over the Baltimore-Washington area."

Others say they haven't noticed any difference with the program in their community. Some also say crime isn't that bad in Columbia or countywide.

"One of the things is people in Howard County think they live in Eden, and Eden is long gone," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, chairwoman of the village board in Columbia's Long Reach, the other village targeted by the suppression program.

"This isn't a rural society anymore in Howard County," she said. "Nobody likes to see murders, rapes or robberies but we still live in a fairly safe place."

Mary Alma Hood, 69, of Long Reach doesn't feel that way. She was among the 144 robbery victims during the first six months of this year. A man approached her near her home about 4: 30 a.m. one day in May, struggled with her and stole her purse.

"I'm very much concerned," said Hood, who has lived in Columbia about seven years. "It wasn't quite so bad before. I wouldn't wish that on anybody."

In addition to the robberies, the county had two highly publicized murders between January and June. Both were domestic-related.

The first was the stabbing death of state Sen. Arthur Dorman's 36-year-old daughter, Barbara Susan Dorman of North Laurel in February.

Last month, her boyfriend, Gary C. Moncarz, 42, of the 9500 block of Canterbury Riding in North Laurel was found guilty of murder but not criminally responsible in the case.

A judge ruled that Moncarz was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the incident that prevented him from understanding his actions. He was sent to a mental institution.

The county's second murder this year was heard during a 911 call April 2. Xuang Ky Tran, a 31-year-old Columbia man, shot and killed his wife while she was talking to a 911 dispatcher from their home in the 4900 block of Columbia Road. Moments later, Tran killed himself.

Police spokesman Keller said the county is likely to see a continued increase in crimes as the population rises, noting that the calls for all kinds of police assistance increased from 47,817 in January through June 1995 to 52,433 during the same period this year.

"Every [Maryland] jurisdiction is experiencing the same kinds of problems," Keller said. "It's what happens whenever you have more people."

Half-year Howard County crime figures

Offense .. .. .. .. .. ..1995 .. .. .1996 .. .. ..% change

Burglaries .. .. .. .. ...648 .. .. ..575 .. .. .. .-11.3

Rapes .. .. .. .. .. .. ...13 .. .. ...18 .. .. .. ...38.5

Homicides .. .. .. .. .. ...1 .. .. .. .2 .. .. .. ..100.0

Robberies .. .. .. .. .. ..84 .. .. ..144 .. .. .. ...71.4

Assaults .. .. .. .. .. ..109 .. .. ..203 .. .. .. ...86.2

Thefts .. .. .. .. .. ..3,030 .. ...2,868 .. .. .. ...-5.3

Vehicle thefts .. .. .. ..359 .. .. ..326 .. .. .. ..-9.2

Total serious crimes ...4,244 .. ...4,136 .. .. .. ...-6.6

Serious-crime arrests .. .757 .. .. ..872 .. .. .. ...15.2

Adult arrests .. .. .. ...467 .. .. ..507 .. .. .. .. .8.6

Juvenile arrests .. .. ...290 .. .. ..365 .. .. .. ...25.9

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