Mixed news in crime data

Police report more homicides despite drop in total crime

March 24, 2006|By NICK SHIELDS | NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTER

Crime in Baltimore County dropped by about 5 percent last year compared with 2004, but the number of homicides and robberies was up, according to the county Police Department.

The number of crimes reported last year was the lowest since 1983, according to police, who also said that violent crime fell more than 8 percent last year compared with the year before. In 2005, 68,851 crimes were reported in Baltimore County; 72,648 were reported in 2004.

However, the number of homicides last year in the county, 40, was the most since 1992. And while the number of burglaries was down, robberies and motor vehicle thefts were up.

The number of robberies increased about 13 percent, according to the police statistics, the highest number reported since 1998. The number of robberies committed with the use of a gun increased by 22 percent, from 660 cases to 803.

"We've got to do something about it," Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said of the robberies. "We've got to be more aggressive in going about these cases. And if we can't prevent it from occurring, we have to catch the person."

Sheridan said each precinct has a plan to tackle the increase in robberies, and that approach includes "shifting resources."

Sally Simpson, professor and chair of the department of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, College Park, said the decline in burglaries could be the result of "target hardening."

"Maybe people have made their residences and businesses more difficult to get into," Simpson said. "Robberies are quick money. The nature of robberies are different."

To combat crimes involving firearms, Sheridan said the department's budget request includes $500,000 to establish a unit that would investigate attempted murders involving guns and work with the department's Firearms Violence Team.

Of last year's homicides in the county, nearly a quarter were domestic crimes involving spouses or other members of the victim's household.

"We have the domestics that escalate to homicides," Sheridan said. "In Baltimore County, we're not prone to having random kinds of cases."

Eight of the 2005 homicides are unsolved, police said.

Other statistics showed that aggravated assault declined from 4,363 in 2004 to 3,665 in 2005, the lowest reported figure since 1978. Rapes decreased from 192 to 177 reported cases. In 68 percent of the rape cases, the victim knew the suspect prior to the offense, police said.

Motor vehicle theft rose by 3.5 percent last year, according to the statistics. Dodge Caravans, Dodge Neons, Honda Accords and Honda Civics were the vehicles stolen most often. Those models account for more than 10 percent of the 3,024 cars stolen in the county last year.

While the 312 reported cases of arson were two less than in 2004, the estimated property damage rose sharply. The total estimated property damage was about $2,480,000 in 2004 compared with $3,221,000 last year.

Police attributed the overall drop in crime, and a clearance rate of more than 76 percent for violent crimes, to cooperation from community groups and other residents.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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