Police put focus on increases in crime

2002 statistics show auto thefts up in county, burglaries in Annapolis

March 04, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

With small fluctuations in most major crime categories last year, Anne Arundel County and Annapolis police are focusing their resources on crimes that did go up, including auto theft in the county and burglary in the city.

The county crime statistics, released yesterday, show a nearly 23 percent increase in auto theft last year - the largest of any major crime.

Deputy Chief Emerson C. Davis attributed the rise to several major auto theft rings - inside and outside the county - that police are trying to track.

Davis also noted that the state cut resources to the county last year for tackling auto theft.

"We're trying to use our own resources now to make up for the loss of state auto theft grants," he said. "But I'm not sure we'll be able to completely make up for the losses."

He urged residents to avoid leaving keys in their vehicles - even when running back into the house before leaving in the morning.

"If people wouldn't do that," he said, "it would help the auto theft numbers significantly."

The category with the second-largest increase was homicides, which rose by one case last year.

Davis pointed out that none of the 11 homicides in the county last year - excluding Annapolis - involved a random act of violence or an unintended victim. Annapolis had four homicides last year, the same as the previous year.

In Annapolis, the serious crime that saw the biggest percentage increase was rape (36 percent). The number of cases rose by four, to 15.

Police were concerned about an increase in burglaries, which went up 24 percent.

City police attribute the higher burglary numbers - up 81 to 414 cases last year - to a rash of bicycle thefts in the spring and summer and a spree of kick-in burglaries.

Lt. Robert E. Beans, who work in the community services section of the Police Department, said residents have become lax in protecting their homes over the years.

"They're putting out what we call `welcome' signs for the bad guys," he said. Piles of newspapers or mail, overgrown shrubbery, open windows and unlighted homes are all inviting signs for burglars, he said.

He encouraged residents to keep watch over the goings-on in their neighborhoods, including listening for suspicious noises and looking for people who might be casing cars and homes.

"Everybody now should have a noisy neighbor," Beans said. "It's one of the best crime-fighting tools that we have."

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