Police data show rise in violent crime

1st-quarter report logs more robberies this year than last

Number of assaults fall

Officials hesitate to base conclusions on three-month span

May 30, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Assaults on Howard County police officers jumped substantially in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year, and robberies also showed an increase from a year ago, police reported yesterday.

The increase in the number of robberies, from 36 to 48, and the number of homicides, from zero to three, during the first three months of the year counterbalanced a drop in the number of aggravated assaults - resulting in a 6.7 percent overall increase in violent crime, compared with the first quarter of last year.

The number of assaults on officers increased by 17 - from 14 to 31 - in the first quarter of this year, compared with a year ago.

Police said they did not know why the number of robberies, which had dropped nearly by half from the first quarter of 1999 to the first quarter of last year, were up this year, or why assaults on officers had increased.

They cautioned against reading too much into numbers that detail so short a time.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay said yesterday that a one-quarter spike in assaults on officers could be an anomaly. Police said no serious injuries resulted from the assaults.

"The best we can do is make sure the officers are well-prepared and well-trained," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.

"Obviously, we pay attention to quarterly crime reports, but they're not a true indicator of crime trends," said Livesay.

When the number of first-quarter robberies fell from 69 to 36 between 1999 and last year, the department credited its new robbery unit for the decrease. That trend continued through the year. There were 164 robberies last year, compared with 233 in 1999.

The first-quarter statistics also show a 3.8 percent increase in property crime, a number boosted by an increased number of thefts, while the number of burglaries and car thefts fell.

Juvenile arrests increased by slightly less than 4 percent - from 534 to 555 - during the same period, although the number of youth arrests for violent crimes decreased by more than 28 percent - from 21 to 15.

Howard County police attributed the increase in overall juvenile arrests to the relatively new school-resource officer program, saying police-student contact has given officers new ways to gather information about crimes committed by youths.

Patricia Flanigan, the Howard County supervisor for the state Department of Juvenile Justice, said she has noticed that more juveniles are coming through the system since a resource officer was placed in each county high school in late 1999.

But, she said, it can be difficult to explain the cause of the increase. Offenses that might have been handled informally in the past might now result in arrests because an officer is on-site.

"It's hard to judge," she said. "Is this, `My gosh, crime is up in schools,' or is it ... because somebody is there to intervene?"

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