Crime in Baltimore shows sharp drop in first 9 months of '97 11.8% decline continues a trend

Frazier notes curbs on gun violence

November 19, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Continuing a downward trend that began nearly two years ago, crime in Baltimore declined substantially in the first nine months of 1997, compared with the same period last year, figures show.

Violent crime dropped 9.3 percent, and property crime declined 12.6 percent, according to statistics released yesterday by the Baltimore Police Department.

Together, they represented a cumulative drop in city crime of 11.8 percent.

The numbers have been going down since last year, when crime decreased significantly for the first time in a decade.

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier attributed the decline to a greater emphasis on controlling gun violence, effective work by patrol officers and citizens' increased willingness to work with police.

"Looking at the larger picture, we're in a significant downward trend," Frazier said. "Overall, this is a much safer city than a few short years ago."

Nationwide, most large and medium cities have posted declines in crime during the past two years.

The FBI ranked Baltimore as the fifth-deadliest city per capita in the nation last year, behind Washington, New Orleans, Richmond, Va., and Atlanta.

Last year, Baltimore recorded 328 slayings -- 46 for every 100,000 residents. Washington had 397 homicides, or 73 per 100,000.

According to the latest statistics, the first nine months of 1997 show an 11 percent decrease in slayings over the same period last year, from 258 to 230.

If the pace continues, Baltimore will finish the year with 300 homicides, the lowest number in eight years.

Also during the first nine months, nonfatal shootings declined 21 percent, compared with the same period last year. Frazier said the change reflects improved investigation techniques that went into effect in April 1996.

"Every shooting is investigated much like a homicide, by a headquarters-based specialist group," he said.

The commissioner also said increased accountability in the Police Department has played a role in the statistics. The nine district commanders meet weekly with supervisors to assess their strategies.

"The key is, you're going to be held accountable for the numbers in your district," Frazier said. "And if there's an aberration you better be prepared to say what you're doing about it."

The recent crime figures reflect marked declines in all categories except aggravated assault, which showed a less than 1 percent increase.

Compared with the first nine months of last year, rapes are down nearly 30 percent, robberies are down 15.9 percent, burglaries are down 18.2 percent and car thefts are down 17.6 percent.

Frazier said that more investigators and increased training were key factors in the sizable decline in rapes, from 499 to 353.

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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