Maryland State Police figures show that crime in Maryland dropped 7 percent last year -- more than twice the 3 percent decrease of 1996 -- and state officials called the decrease good news.
The Uniform Crime Report, which will be released today at the opening of a law-enforcement multipurpose center in Essex, showed declines in most major crimes statewide.
Murder, robbery and motor vehicle theft dropped in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas. Murder fell by nearly a third in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, according to the state police compilation.
"We're very pleased. But we can't rest," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who heads the state's anti-crime efforts. "We are fundamentally changing the way we are fighting crime. Up to now, parents, citizens and parole and probation officers have been the sleeping giants of crime prevention."
Putting police officers, parole officers and social services together in designated "Hot Spot" communities where crime has been a problem, is a central part of the battle, Townsend said. Programs such as the one being launched today in the Deep Creek community of Essex -- one of Baltimore County's three "Hot Spot" areas -- bring together law enforcement and the communities they serve, she said.
However, Townsend and state law enforcement officers emphasized that the battle is hardly won.
"It's absolutely a ray of hope," said Col. David B. Mitchell of the Maryland State Police. "But it's not something we can rejoice in and claim a victory. This is an everyday struggle."
Overall crime dipped slightly in two of the state's three rural areas and rose in a third.
The Eastern Shore, which includes Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties, showed increases in murder, rape and vehicle theft, with a 5.2 percent decrease in crime overall.
In Southern Maryland, which includes Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, robberies, assaults and thefts were up, and overall crime rose 1.6 percent.
In Western Maryland, which includes Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, murders, rapes, robberies, thefts and motor vehicle thefts were up, but overall crime dropped 0.5 percent.
The rural numbers are worrisome, Townsend said.
"I do think [crime] can take root if we're not vigilant," she said yesterday. Rural areas can be hindered by an historical lack of crime, she said. Crimes such as murder remain comparatively low in areas like the Eastern Shore, but are increasing.
Pub Date: 3/26/98