Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Monday insisted the county remains a safe place to live, despite concerns from some residents regarding increases in several categories of violent crime.
“It’s a safe county to live in,” Kamenetz said. “People want to move to the county. Our school system enrollment keeps going up. Our population keeps increasing. We have a high quality of life, low tax rates, good educational system here. I’m confident that were’re on top of all of these issues.”
The Baltimore Sun reported Monday that while homicides remained flat at 35 in each of the last two years, overall violent crime increased 14.5 percent from 2016 to 2017. That came after a 2.8 percent decrease from 2015 to 2016. Violent crime categories include aggravated assault, robbery and rape.
Violent crime increased in nearly every part of the county last year, including a 32.3 percent increase in the Essex precinct on the east side and a nearly 20 percent increase in the Franklin precinct on the west side. The Franklin precinct includes a Target in Owings Mills where shots were fired last week, rattling some shoppers and neighbors.
Kamenetz had declined interview requests from The Baltimore Sun for that article, but spoke to reporters at an event Monday and defended his administration’s efforts to fight crime. He said the county has “record low crime rates” per capita.
“Our police are well-trained, they’re well equipped with the latest technology and they work well with the community,” Kamenetz said. “We’re crime fighters here.”
Kamenetz is in his final year as county executive. He’s among seven leading candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The winner will take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is seeking re-election.
Kamenetz said crime is driven by issues such as lack of educational opportunities and the heroin and opioid crisis.
He said the county has been trying to remove the stigmas around getting treatment for addiction and increasing access to treatment. The county also has plans to join a federal lawsuit against drug makers who produce opioids.
The county executive said the Maryland State Police could do a better job working on stopping drugs being moved into and through the state on the Interstate 95 corridor.
He also defended police Chief Terry Sheridan, who has been criticized by the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4. Kamenetz said he has full confidence in Sheridan.
“I’ve never seen a police union express anything other than concerns about their relationship with the police chief,” Kamenetz said. “I think that’s par for the course here.”