Most major crime was down in Baltimore County during the first half of 2012 compared with the average rate of crime during the same time frame in the past five years, according to Baltimore County police.

Rapes, the exception to the overall 8.6 percent decline, increased.

The first six months of the year showed homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults, all considered "Part I violent crime," had declined compared with the previous five-year average, Police Chief James Johnson wrote in a summary of the statistics posted on the county website Tuesday.

There were 10 homicides in the county in the first six months of 2012, compared with an average of 15 in the first six months of the past five years, Johnson wrote. There were 80 rapes, compared with an average of 71 in the first six months of the past five years.

Other Part I crimes, including burglary, theft, car theft and arson, were also down. Secondary crime, or "Part II crime," which includes simple assaults, sex offenses, drug violations and vandalism, was down 5.4 percent, Johnson wrote.

Johnson said the department's clearance rate also remained above the national average as reported by the FBI.

"This means we are solving crimes and getting criminals off the street," he wrote.

A Baltimore Sun request for crime statistics for the first half of 2011 alone, rather than a five-year average, was not immediately met.

Baltimore County began reporting crime statistics in comparison with previous five-year averages, rather than to the previous year, in 2011, a change Johnson addressed in his summary.

"In any given year, a host of factors — weather is one of the most significant — may cause crime to spike up or down," Johnson wrote. "Such short-term comparisons often do not provide a true picture of local crime. I believe we should focus on trends, on whether crime is rising or falling over the longer term."

Johnson said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the early 2012 statistics.

"Optimistic, because we know we truly are making Baltimore County safer when data over a five-year period shows declines in almost every category of crime," he wrote. "Cautious, because human nature cannot be controlled."

krector@baltsun.com

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