Violent crime falls 10% in Balto. Rate for 9 months is first decline since introduction of crack

December 04, 1996|By John Rivera and Peter Hermann | John Rivera and Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Joe Mathews contributed to this article.

Violent crime fell by nearly 10 percent in Baltimore in the first nine months of this year, the first significant decrease since the introduction of crack cocaine in 1986 triggered sharp increases in murders, shootings and robberies.

Statistics released yesterday by the Baltimore Police Department showed that crime decreased in almost every category except homicide, which increased by 8 percent, and auto theft, which rose 2 percent. The largest decrease was seen in aggravated assaults, including shootings, which dropped by 12.6 percent, followed by robberies and burglaries, which both fell by about 8 percent.

Overall, major crime fell by 7 percent. Violent crime decreased 9.6 percent. Property crime dropped by 6.2 percent.

Crime is down "across the board," said Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, who came here three years ago. "I think it is the first time we've seen this broad a decrease."

RTC The drop in crime indicates the city is seeing the kind of decrease that other metropolitan areas have posted over the past several years.

Frazier said the numbers showed that his policies, such as directing officers to concentrate on seizing guns instead of targeting people for possessing small quantities of drugs, and enlarging the Police Athletic Leagues, were working.

"Those strategies have proven to be correct. We're now beginning to reap the rewards," Frazier said.

Until now, Baltimore had been bucking a national trend, in which serious crime had been steadily dropping, with the largest declines being posted in major cities. According to FBI statistics, violent crime decreased 4 percent in 1995 nationwide, the fourth consecutive year it fell after a decade of steadily rising violence.

Since Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took office in December 1987, major crime has soared 40 percent. From 1980 to 1987, major crimes -- homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, assaults and thefts -- decreased, from 76,000 to 65,000. By 1994, that number had risen to nearly 93,000.

Through October of this year there have been 72,016 major crimes in Baltimore.

The homicide rate in Baltimore remains a concern. Frazier said homicides spiked during the first two or three months of the year "for no particular reason." At one point this year, the homicide rate was up more than 26 percent, but has since dropped to an increase of 8 percent.

Particularly puzzling to police is the fact that the number of shootings has dropped sharply since 1993, but the mortality rate has risen, from 9 percent of shooting victims in 1995 to 20 percent of those shot this year. City officials have begun a study of the ways gunshot victims are treated to determine what is causing the anomaly. They are setting up a computer database to analyze every shooting report since 1989.

Frazier has also instructed the police department's Violent Crime Task Force to investigate every city shooting.

Community leaders say they have seen concrete evidence of the statistical drop in crime in their neighborhoods. Connie Fowler, acting president of the Carrollton Ridge Association, said she had noticed a decrease in drug trafficking in her neighborhood over the past year, and believes that there is less violence as a result.

"We're pleased," she said. "We've seen the drug things go down, and the drugs and violence seem to be tied together."

Frank Lewis, president of the Curtis Bay Community Association, said he believed the decline in the Southern District was attributable largely to more aggressive police.

"I see it down here, and you feel it in the police," he said. "They have picked things up."

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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