Md. saw decline in killings during first 6 months of '08

Statistics driven by drop in Baltimore homicides

overall crime up

November 07, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Baltimore's steep drop in homicides helped drive a significant decline in killings statewide during the first half of the year, even as overall crime increased slightly, according to statistics released yesterday.

Maryland's homicide numbers fell 14.7 percent from January to June compared with the same period last year, largely as a result of the 32 percent decline in Baltimore homicides during that time. Last year, Baltimore killings accounted for more than half of the state's total, but this year, the city has seen 43 percent of Maryland's homicides.

Twelve of the state's 23 other jurisdictions also reported drops in homicides, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George's counties.

Like Baltimore City, however, the state saw little change in overall crime. Violent crimes, including robberies and assaults, increased less than 1 percent; property crimes such as breaking and entering or theft were up about 4 percent. If that trend holds, it would reverse six years of declines in property crime.

"We're certainly not declaring victory," said Kristen Mahoney, director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention. "Maryland is a violent state, and Baltimore and the surrounding areas certainly have crime issues. But it's progress, and I think progress is what we would like to see."

Officials credit improved collaboration among local, state and federal officials for the reduction in homicides. The Department of Parole and Probation has worked to identify and supervise the most violent offenders in Maryland, an initiative monitored at StateStat meetings that also monitor gun seizures, DNA collection and the number of warrants served.

Gun task forces have been launched in Baltimore City and Prince George's County, and Harford County law enforcement agencies are working more closely on investigations and on using crime-mapping and on-demand statistics. Annapolis is in the midst of a pilot program that poured resources into the state's capital city and helped stem a tide of homicides.

"We take every single public safety resource in a dump truck and back it up and say, 'What do you need?' " Mahoney said.

Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane attributed his jurisdiction's 22 percent drop in aggravated assaults and 12 percent drop in all violent crime to that sort of cooperation and use of new technology, such as CountyStat, the county's new comprehensive computer analysis of crime data.

"It's a new approach for the Harford County Sheriff's Office," Bane said. "It appears as though it has paid off." The state is on pace to dip below 500 killings for the first time since 2001, and officials said the rate of improvement has increased in the second half of the year. As of yesterday, homicides were down 17 percent statewide compared with the same period last year, Mahoney said.

She noted a 10 percent decline in vehicle thefts as a particular achievement. Stolen cars declined 15 percent in Prince George's County, 14 percent in Baltimore County and 10 percent in Baltimore City in the first half of the year. Those jurisdictions have historically struggled with auto thefts.

Counties on the fast-growing Eastern Shore saw an 8 percent increase in total crime, including a doubling of homicides from 10 to 20, and a 9.2 percent increase in property crimes. The two counties that experienced the largest increases in total crime in Maryland - Kent and Cecil counties - are on the Eastern Shore.

Total crime also rose 4 percent in the Washington metropolitan area and 7.5 percent in Southern Maryland.

In the Baltimore area, Howard County had the largest increase in total crime, despite drops in homicides, rapes and motor vehicle thefts. A surge in larcenies and breaking and entering led to the increase, according to statistics.

Baltimore Sun reporter David Kohn contributed to this article.

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