Violent crime rises 9.1 percent

Robberies show largest increase, statistics show

Population trend noted

Some officials say next year's figures will be better gauge

March 09, 2000|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Violent crime -- murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults -- jumped 9.1 percent in Howard County last year, with robberies showing the largest increase, crime statistics released yesterday show.

The statistics also show there were 466 violent crimes reported last year, compared with 427 in 1998 -- an increase of 39.

Despite an aggressive new robbery unit, holdups continued to rise last year: from 184 in 1998 to 233 in 1999. Most of the robberies were committed against people on the street rather than commercial holdups, said Sgt. John Superson, police spokesman.

Out of the 233 robberies, 164 were street holdups and 69 were commercial businesses such as convenience stores.

"Most of the street robberies involve juveniles or young adults," he said. "And if it is not about drugs, it's some other juvenile crime."

But officials emphasized that while robberies rose over the two-year period, the figure is slightly lower than that from 1996, when there were 248 holdups.

Last April, county Police Chief Wayne Lively created a temporary robbery task force to handle the increased caseload. He made it a permanent unit about a month later when police realized that a specialized force helped detectives find patterns in crimes and build a rapport with robbery units in other police departments. Until then, Howard was the only department in the area without a robbery unit.

While the number of robberies has increased, so has the number of arrests.

There were 64 arrests last year, compared with 47 the year before, the statistics show.

Despite more arrests, detectives have closed 22.32 percent of the robberies last year -- that's 52 of the 233 holdups.

Superson said statistics show that robberies have fluctuated in the past eight years: 145 in 1991, 131 in 1992, 128 in 1993, 147 in 1994, 210 in 1995, 248 in 1996, 222 in 1997, 184 in 1998 and 233 last year.

"The tell-tale sign will be next year if they go up again, and that will be three years in a row," he said. "Then we will see what kind of trend there is."

The department is doing much more with crime analysis to identify motives, suspects and trends, Superson said.

The Special Assignment Team, a three-officer unit that does surveillance to prevent robberies and other crimes, began work in November; police officials expect the team to have an impact on crime this year.

Home and commercial burglaries also increased, the statistics show -- from 1,211 in 1998 to 1,315 in 1999. But, as in robbery cases, police have made slightly more arrests for burglaries -- 226 last year compared with 225 the year before.

"The population has increased," Superson said. "When that happens, you are going to get increases in crime."

The population in Howard jumped from 236,814 in October 1998 to 242,533 in October 1999, statistics show. The increase in population also means an increase in the number of calls to police -- there were 105,308 in 1998 and 109,076 last year.

Homicides increased by two in 1999. There were six in 1998. All of the 1999 cases -- except the Oakland Mills double-killing in November -- have been solved, police say.

Homicide detectives are investigating the slayings of Johnathan R. Barney, 19, and Davon L. Mayfield, 18. Both men were gunned down Nov. 29 as they walked along a bike path off of Stevens Forrest Road. Police have not commented on a motive for the killings, but they say drugs were found near the bodies and in the pocket of one of the victims.

"It's still an active investigation," Superson said. "We still have leads coming in."

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