Burglaries up sharply in county

49% jump in 1st quarter attributed to a small number of criminals

May 31, 2006|By LARRY CARSON | LARRY CARSON,SUN REPORTER

Howard County experienced a 49 percent increase in burglaries during the first three months of this year, but county police attribute much of the jump to a few burglars who committed multiple crimes each.

"We closed 36 construction site thefts with one arrest," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn; another 25 commercial burglaries in Elkridge were also cleared with one arrest. Mild winter weather may have helped boost criminal activity, she said, though a three-month period can see wild fluctuations from year to year.

"One person can have a huge impact in three months," Llewellyn said. Burglaries jumped from 234 in the first quarter of 2005 to 348 in the same period this year. The number of homicides remained unchanged at one reported during the three-month period.

The number of robberies increased from 58 to 70, but that obscures a spike in January followed by a sharp drop in February and March, when the county reassigned undercover and uniformed officers to work robbery squads in Long Reach, Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake and Harper's Choice in Columbia. After 40 robberies in January, police recorded 14 in February and 16 in March.

Reported rapes were also up, from eight last year to 14 this year, but police said that represents improved reporting rather than a real increase in crimes - a contention supported by Jeannie Meece, executive director of the nonprofit Sexual Trauma, Treatment Advocacy and Recovery Center.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay, who is leaving office today after 8 1/2 years, said, "We know more rapes happen each year than those that are reported to police. We're glad more women feel they can come forward after being so terribly victimized."

Meece said she agrees with the police assessment, because the number of rapes reported to the STTAR program typically runs one-third higher than police statistics. In the first quarter, however, the program recorded only two more rapes than police did.

Meece said her hot line volunteers urge callers reporting rapes to go to the police so the attacker can be prosecuted and prevented from committing other offenses.

Total crime was up 5.27 percent for the quarter compared to last year, with so-called "serious" crime, including murder, rape, robbery and assault, up 6.68 percent.

Arrests also were up, the report said.

For adult arrests, police reported eight for rape this year compared to two last year, 20 for robbery versus 24 last year, and 40 for burglary compared to 25 for the same period last year.

Twenty juveniles were arrested for assault and 20 for robbery this year, compared to 12 for assault and two for robbery last year.

Twenty-one county police offers were physically assaulted during the three-month period.

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