Crime figures worry police, despite decline

County posts 3.4% drop, but Annapolis up 6.5%

`Frustrated by robbery rate'

Auto thefts in capital, more patrols are focus

Anne Arundel

March 17, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The level of crime in Anne Arundel County declined slightly last year, according to statistics released yesterday by the county Police Department, but the police chief said he remains troubled by the number of robberies.

Anne Arundel posted a 3.4 percent overall decrease in major crime - such as homicide, rape and aggravated assault - while major crimes in Annapolis increased about 6.5 percent. Annapolis is not included in the county crime statistics.

The city and county police departments say they will continue to target robberies and thefts - particularly motor vehicle thefts in Annapolis - throughout this year.

"We're frustrated by the robbery rate," said Chief P. Thomas Shanahan of the county Police Department. "It's up in the whole [Baltimore] region."

Last year, county police handled their largest homicide caseload in at least a decade. Seven of the 18 homicides have been attributed to domestic disputes, including the only case with multiple victims.

On April 23, Diana Kunes Durrett, 40, and her parents, Mary Louise Kunes, 58, and Nathan Wilson Kunes, 61, were fatally shot in Durrett's Pasadena townhouse. Durrett's husband, Jack Lee Durrett, 43, fled the scene and killed himself that day in West Virginia.

County police had a greater robbery caseload, as well. The overall number of robberies rose 1 percent, from 609 in 2002 to 615 last year, but the western and southern parts of the county saw sharper increases.

In the area south of Annapolis, robberies increased nearly 26 percent - from 58 in 2002 to 73 last year - especially at convenience stores and private residences.

And in the western part of the county, an area that includes the Arundel Mills shopping area, police responded to about 12 percent more robberies last year than in 2002. Gas station and chain store robberies posted the largest increases in that category.

Shanahan said the department has tried to reduce robberies by increasing police visibility, particularly at shopping plazas that have been experiencing a crime wave. Officers who are working a second job as security for a private business are required to wear their uniforms and drive their patrol cars.

The chief said that even though the department is operating with 54 fewer sworn officers than the 667 it is authorized to have, the patrol ranks have remained full. Shanahan said he put numerous officers who had been in administrative positions back on the streets and that the department has more officers in patrol now than it ever has.

"These things have helped," Shanahan said. "But we're still not as successful in the robbery area as we would have liked."

However, Shanahan said he was pleased with the Police Department's impact on auto thefts last year.

The number of auto thefts reached a five-year high of 1,353 in 2002. Through stakeouts and patrols last year, the department cracked several auto theft rings, resulting in about a 9 percent drop in that category of crime.

But in Annapolis, auto thefts jumped from 115 in 2002 to 205 last year, according to the city Police Department's annual statistics. That's more than a 78 percent increase.

"We're concentrating our efforts on stolen vehicles," said Norman Johnson, community service specialist for the 124-officer city Police Department. "And we want to try to get the general public to protect their own vehicles."

Johnson said the majority of vehicles stolen in the city are taken from owners' driveways. Many times, he said, an owner will start the car and leave it unattended while it warms up during cold weather. Other vehicles are taken while the owner leaves the car running and dashes into a convenience store to pick up an item.

"You can't do this," he said. "You have to take your keys with you every time."

Crime trends

Anne Arundel County

Crime 2003 2002 Change

Homicide 18 11 63.6%

Rape 74 82 -9.8 %

Robbery 615 609 1%

Aggravated assault 1,533 1,671 -8.3%

Burglary 2,711 2,779 -2.4%

Theft 11,649 11,976 -2.7%

Auto theft 1,230 1,353 -9.1%

Annapolis

Crime 2003 2002 Change

Homicide 5 4 25%

Rape 17 15 13.3 %

Robbery 141 149 --5.4%

Aggravated assault 227 253 --10.3%

Burglary 406 414 --1.9%

Larceny 1,480 1,380 7.2%

Auto theft 205 115 78.3%

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