Balto. Co. serious crime drops 8.7% Homicide rate falls to 14-year low in early 1998 statistics

June 03, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

Serious crime in Baltimore County decreased almost 9 percent during the first three months of 1998, according to figures released by police yesterday.

Most remarkable were homicide statistics, which hit a 14-year low.

The total number of county crimes dropped to 19,524 during the first three months of the year, compared to 21,060 a year ago -- a decrease of 7.3 percent. The only exception to the trend was White Marsh, which showed a 12.6 percent rise in crime over last year, an increase police attributed to the area's rapid growth.

Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan mentioned the Business Patrol Initiative (BPI) as one factor in the overall decrease.

"They certainly have had a positive impact," he said of the 40 officers assigned to the patrol, which began last year. The BPI targets nine commercial corridors in the county that had an "inordinate" number of calls, he said. Violent crime dropped more than 30 percent in the nine BPI areas this quarter, and robbery was down 36 percent.

"Those were the areas where crimes were the highest, so for us to have taken the high crime areas and bring them down is really very heartening," said police spokesman Bill Toohey.

The largest decrease in crime was reported in the Woodlawn precinct, which showed a 12.8 percent drop. Robberies, in particular, were "just way down," said Capt. Richard D. Weih.

Countywide, the only major crime category that showed an increase was breaking and entering, which rose slightly during the first quarter.

Toohey said the increase might be linked to drug use.

"We don't have a precise cause and effect, but what we have noticed is a large percentage of people we've arrested are heroin addicts, and we believe they're using breaking and entering to finance their habits," he said.

Only two homicides were reported during the first three months of this year, compared to six for the same period in 1997. Sheridan said arrest rates -- which went up 3.9 percent -- might have contributed to the drop in homicides.

"The police department is arresting more and more people," he said. "That does get more people out of the mainstream where they might commit that crime."

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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