Crime up by 8% in first half of year

Increases reported in 6 of 8 categories, police statistics show

November 16, 2006|By Nick Shields | Nick Shields,sun reporter

Crime in Baltimore County, which dropped last year to its lowest level in more than two decades, was up in the first half of this year, according to county police statistics.

Crime rose by almost 8 percent in the first six months of 2006 compared with the corresponding period last year, with increases reported in six of the eight categories that constitute serious crime, including robberies, burglaries and thefts.

Robberies increased by about 29 percent and were the highest reported since 1997. Burglaries increased by nearly 20 percent countywide in the first six months of this year, and thefts increased by about 9 percent.

The 17 homicides in the county during the first half of the year were two more than in the corresponding period last year, and three cases above the previous five-year average of 14 for the first six months of a year. Motor vehicle thefts increased by 18 percent.

Still, county police point out that the number of offenses for the first half of the year is the second-lowest of any comparable period going back to 1984.

"Crime was never going to go away, but now we're at a new, lower level than what we had been," police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

In March, police reported that crime in the county last year was about 5 percent lower than in the year before. Police said the number of crimes in 2005 in the county was the lowest since 1983. Violent crime fell more than 8 percent in 2005, according to police.

The increase in crime in the first six months of this year appears to be at least partially fueled by juvenile offenses.

From January through June, juveniles accounted for slightly more than 30 percent of all violent crime arrests in the county. The statistics show that juveniles have accounted for more than a quarter of all violent crime arrests in the county during the first half of every year since 2003. In 2001, they accounted for about one in five such arrests.

Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Toohey called juvenile crime "a disturbing problem," adding, "This is not something that can be arrested out of existence. We have to deal with young people in a very comprehensive way."

Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said more programs, such as drug treatment, should be in place for juveniles.

To help combat the recent spike, the department has detailed about 100 officers to youth crime prevention activities, including the county's Police Athletic League centers and Juvenile Offenders in Need of Supervision program.

Statistics show there were 24 percent fewer rape cases in the county during the first half of this year, and aggravated assaults decreased by about 16 percent.

There were 26 more convenience store robberies from January through June than during those months last year. Statistics also show that countywide robberies where a gun was used increased by 128 cases.

A county police team, formed to help reduce the number of guns on county streets, will soon begin investigating all nonfatal shootings with injuries and some serious assaults that required hospitalization, Toohey said.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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