Crime in Md. continues to drop State statistics show first January-to-June decline since 1990

September 09, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Maryland reported a 6 percent drop in overall crime in the first half of 1997, continuing a state and national trend toward declining crime rates.

The statistics issued yesterday by Maryland State Police and the governor's office also marked Maryland's first January-to-June crime reduction since 1990.

The 140,016 crimes reported from January through June this year amount to a crime being committed somewhere in Maryland every 1 minute and 45 seconds -- but also represented a drop from the 148,742 crimes reported for the first half of 1996.

"I think it's a ray of hope," said Col. David B. Mitchell, state police superintendent.

Last year, state police noted a 3 percent dip in overall crime from 1995 to 1996 -- along with a 5 percent reduction in the violent crime categories of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

The report released yesterday showed a continued drop in violent crime in the first six months of this year: a decline of 9 percent statewide. Murder was down by 9 percent, rapes by 4 percent and robberies by 16 percent.

Mitchell credited increased involvement by neighborhood watch groups and stepped-up efforts by police to identify and focus on high-crime areas. "The focus has to be that we have a lot more to do," he said.

Violent crime also was down dramatically in the jurisdictions with traditionally the highest crime rates.

The number of violent crimes fell from 83,881 to 78,631 in the Baltimore metropolitan region, which state police define as the city and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties. The figures represent a 6.3 percent drop. The Baltimore region saw a 12 percent drop in murders, a 16 percent drop in robberies and a 17 percent drop in rapes.

In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the number of violent crimes fell from 45,387 to 42,036, which represents a 7.4 percent decline. Montgomery and Prince George's saw a 13 percent drop in murders and a 21 percent drop in robberies, but a 12 percent increase in rapes, according to the figures.

Crime reports for rural areas showed no consistent pattern. On the Eastern Shore, murders, rapes and robberies shot up dramatically, while Southern Maryland reported drops in the number of murders and rapes, and a slight increase in robberies. Western Maryland, in which the state police report includes Carroll County, saw a slight increase in robberies, but a decrease in assaults.

Even so, the number of murders was few in rural areas -- up from seven to 12 on the Shore, down from six to five in Southern Maryland, and up from four to seven in Western Maryland.

Experts attribute the decline in crime to a drop in the population of 15- to 24-year-olds -- the group widely considered most likely to break the law -- and the aging of the baby-boomer generation.

"As baby boomers are getting into their 40s and 50s, they're less likely to be out committing crimes," said Eric Lotke, a spokesman for the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives in Alexandria, Va.

Lotke also said there is increased awareness about the dangers of handguns and the drug trade. "The symbols of the drug culture that used to make someone cool, like carrying a gun, are not so cool anymore," Lotke said.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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