Serious crime in state declines 5 percent in 1998, police say

April 28, 1999|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

Serious crime declined 5 percent in Maryland last year, with decreases reported in four of the state's five regions, according to a report to be released today by Maryland State Police. It was the third straight year that crime has declined statewide.

"We've made good progress," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has focused on crime prevention and justice issues during her tenure. "Obviously, I'm pleased with the 5 percent drop in violent crime. But we have a way to go. We can't rest easy."

Townsend said one factor in the crime decrease is the Hot Spots program, begun two years ago, which targets high-crime areas with extra police officers and extra patrols. The state has 36 Hot Spot areas, and the program will double in size in July.

"Our numbers show we've reduced crime by 12 percent in those areas -- I think that has proved an effective strategy," she said.

The largest decreases occurred in robberies, which fell 11 percent, and motor vehicle theft, down 8 percent.

Carjackings also sharply declined. Primarily a problem in two areas -- the city of Baltimore and Prince George's County -- they declined 19 percent last year.

The Baltimore region, which includes the city of Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties, posted a 7.8 percent decrease in crime. Three other regions reported smaller declines: 0.7 percent in the Washington area (Prince George's and Montgomery counties); 1.2 percent in Southern Maryland; and 1.5 percent in Western Maryland.

On the Eastern Shore, crime increased slightly, rising 0.8 percent for 1998, state police figures showed.

But figures show great disparity among the area's nine counties, with crime falling by nearly 30 percent in Dorchester and rising 20.2 percent in Kent.

Kent County Sheriff John Price said most of the increase in Kent County appeared to be in Chestertown.

Chestertown's police Chief Wayne Bradley said crime had increased in part because an anti-crime initiative had resulted in more reporting of crime.

"We started the Hot Spots patrol -- you've got police going in there every day," Bradley said. "More things were being reported. We had an increase in arrests, and we had an increase in juvenile arrests."

The Chestertown Hot Spot area encompasses about six blocks in the picturesque, historic town -- an area that accounts for most of the town's crime, particularly drug offenses and thefts, the chief said.

1998 crime index trends

Offense ---------- ---------- --------- 1997 ---------- 1998 ---------- Change

Murder ----------- ---------- --------- 501 ------------ 514 ------------ 3%

Rape ------------- ---------- --------- 1,813 ---------- 1,710 --------- -6%

Robbery -------- ---------- --------- 17,158 --------- 15,297 ------- -11%

Aggravated assault --- --------- 23,614 --------- 23,302 ------- -1%

Breaking or entering -- --------- 47,839 --------- 47,212 ------- -1%

Larceny-theft ------------- --------- 166,054 ------- 158,386 ------ -5%

Motor vehicle theft ----- --------- 30,646 --------- 28,152 -------- -8%

Total ----------- ------------ --------- 287,625 -------- 274,573 ------ -5%

Source: Maryland State Police

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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