Baltimore County police tell residents slayings down, but complete story still a click away

January 09, 2012|By Peter Hermann

On Friday, Baltimore County police sent an email alert to residents proclaiming the “number of homicides in Baltimore County in 2011 was 25 percent lower than in 2005.”

That morning’s edition of The Baltimore Sun had this story by reporter Luke Broadwater: “Baltimore County ended 2011 with 30 homicides -- a spike from the 20 killings in 2010.”

Both are right.

A police spokeswoman quoted in Luke’s story noted that 2010 was “an anomaly.” That's not how officials described 2010 last year, when the county executive held a news conference to to credit the "hard work and crime-fighting strategies of the Police Department." The county's top prosecutor called 20 slayings "remarkable."

The email alert sent Friday does encourage people to click on "read more" which takes you to a press release that does indeed discuss the 30 slayings in 2011. It gives the number and says, "Despite a slight increase in the number of homicides from 2010 – a year in which homicides dropped to a 30-year low – the County’s homicide rate remains extremely modest."

But if people only read the first email, without clicking further, they're left with a misleading perception. I know, that's like complaining that newspaper readers never get past the headline.

Here are the county's numbers, by the way:

2005 — 40

2006 — 34

2007 — 35

2008 — 30

2009 — 31

2010 — 20

2011 — 30

Some other stats from Baltimore County’s 2011 homicide numbers — police said 10 involved domestic violence, eight involved acquaintances, three were drug-related and nine have not been classified by detectives. But police said nearly all the other nine involve disputes among people who knew each other.

Baltimore City finished 2011 with 196 killings, the lowest number in three decades. There were only six domestic-related killings in Baltimore last year, four fewer than in Baltimore County. But Baltimore County’s clearance rate was far higher — arrests or closures in 24 slayings, or 80 percent. Baltimore City’s clearance rate was 46.7 percent.

Read further details of how Baltimore City's slaying numbers break down.

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