Violent crime rises slightly

Homicides and burglaries drop in first six months of '04

Police urge caution in analyzing data

Howard County

August 31, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Certain types of violent crime in Howard County increased slightly in the first half of the year, but the homicide rate and the number of property crimes were lower than during the comparable period last year, according to figures released yesterday by the county Police Department.

The figures showed that there were 105 robberies from January to June - 13 more than the same time a year ago. The number of aggravated assaults rose to 144 - 24 more than during the corresponding period last year.

There was a sharp increase in arrests of juveniles who had committed violent crimes, mainly robberies and aggravated assaults. Police made 42 arrests from January through June, compared with 23 arrests for the same time last year - an 83 percent increase.

The county's homicide rate was the lowest since 2000. One homicide was committed in the first half of the year, compared with three for the same period last year. Tamaria Hughes, a 36-year-old Baltimore woman, was fatally beaten and found by police in a freezer in Ellicott City in March. Two suspects were arrested and face the possibility of life imprisonment without parole, if convicted.

Twenty-one rapes were reported during the period, one less than during the first half of last year.

Sherry Llewellyn, the police spokeswoman, cautioned that the six-month period is too short a statistical time frame for conclusions to be drawn about crime trends and law enforcement strategies.

"We try not to get too excited over things that look too positive, or too concerned when things appear to be an issue because oftentimes they'll level out by the end of the year," she said. "It is more effective for us to look at crime over longer periods of time, either year-to-year, or even over a five-year trend."

Referring to the increase in juvenile arrests for violent crimes, Llewellyn said: "If we see a continued [83] percent increase over the year, or over several years, then those numbers really begin to tell us something."

Looking for patterns

But, she noted, police officials closely follow crime patterns in neighborhoods and areas and provide resources immediately to solve problems.

One such case was a robbery sting conducted in Columbia's Oakland Mills village this month. Police planted an undercover officer as a decoy in an area that had seen several evening street robberies in previous weeks. The officer was robbed and assaulted, but police caught five suspects, including two juveniles.

"When we see over the course of a week or two, a spate of robberies or burglaries, we immediately address that," Llewellyn said.

Total property crimes - burglary, theft and stolen automobiles - declined by 1 percent, to 3,251. Arrests for property crimes increased to 405 from 364, an 11 percent increase.

Property crimes

And, while more juveniles were arrested for violent crimes, fewer were arrested for committing property crimes: 225 during the first six months this year compared with 251 for the similar period last year - a 10 percent decline.

The department received 60,381 calls for service, nearly 3,000 fewer calls than during the same period last year.

Crime report

January to June ......... 2003 2004

VIOLENT CRIME

Homicide ........................... 3 1

Rape .................................. 22 21

Robbery ............................ 92 105

Aggravated Assault ......... 120 144

PROPERTY CRIME

Burglary ................................. 588 544

Theft ................................... 2,398 2,413

Stolen autos ......................... 302 294

Source: Howard County Police Department

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