Violent crime up 28.6% in Howard in year's first half

August 17, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Robberies in Howard County rose about 63 percent in the first half of this year, and police said yesterday that it will take time for the 4-month-old robbery unit to have an impact.

The surge in robberies contributed to a 28.6 percent increase in violent crime in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, according to new police statistics. Property crimes increased 2.8 percent.

Some community leaders expressed concern, saying the county should be in line with the statewide trend of decreased crime.

State police statistics released last month show that among all jurisdictions, the county had the second-highest increase in crime, 7 percent, in the first quarter of this year.

"I'm surprised there is an increase," said County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray. "Normally, you would associate good economic times with lower crime."

Lee Potter, a Harper's Choice Village Board member, said area merchants have expressed concerns about safety.

Police officials noted that Howard County continues to have one of the lowest per-capita crime rates in Maryland and pointed out that although the robbery rate seems high, it was higher in in the first half of 1996 and follows a sharp drop in crime last year.

There were 124 robberies from January through June of this year, up from 76 in the same period last year and 130 in the first six months of 1996.

"We look at trends rather than spikes, and the trend shows [the numbers] are lower," Police Chief Wayne Livesay said, comparing the numbers over three years.

Although police officials are confident the robbery unit will have an impact, Sgt. Morris Carroll, a spokesman, cautioned that "it is going to take some time."

"You don't solve them overnight," he said.

Livesay created a task force April 1 to address robberies. The five-officer task force, which focuses on commercial and street robberies, is a permanent unit.

During the first three months of this year, robberies increased 86.5 percent, from 37 during the first quarter of last year to 69 this year. There were 55 robberies in the second quarter, which ended June 30.

Livesay said street robberies are rising and that the robbery unit will also focus on them.

Sgt. Karen Shinham, who leads the task force, said street robberies are more commonly committed by county residents and commercial robberies are often committed by people from outside the county.

Among those arrested for robbery, police are arresting more heroin addicts, Carroll said.

Aggravated assaults also rose, from 87 last year to 98 this year, a 12.6 percent increase. The two remaining violent-crime categories declined. Reported rapes fell to 11 from 17 last year, a 35.3 percent drop; and homicides dropped from two to one.

All three types of property crimes increased slightly in the first half of the year. Burglaries rose to 570 from 562, a 1.4 percent increase; thefts rose to 2,538 from 2,471, a 2.7 percent increase; and motor vehicle theft increased 6 percent, to 299 from 282.

Livesay said he expects overall crime numbers to drop in the next quarter and said longer-term statistics will be a better measure of crime in the county.

"A year would be a good gauge," he said.

Crime in first half of year

Category 1999 1998 change

Violent Crime

Homicide 1 2 -50.0%

Rape 11 17 -35.3%

Robbery 124 76 +63.2%

Aggravated Assault 98 87 +12.6%

TOTAL (violent crime) 234 182 +28.6%

Property Crime

Burglary 570 562 +1.4%

Theft 2,538 2,471 +2.7%

Motor Vehicle Theft 299 282 +6.0%

TOTAL (property crime) 3,407 3,315 +2.8

Source: Howard County Police Dept.

Pub Date: 8/17/99

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