Harford County's top law enforcement official says crime continues to decrease but, meanwhile, the county's roads aren't as safe as they could be.
"This is a safe county to live in," Sheriff Jesse Bane said during a meeting of the Darlington-Dublin Community Council Thursday. "Unfortunately, we can't say the same thing about automobile crashes."
Thirty-one people died on Harford County roads in 2012, compared with 23 in 2011 and 24 during 2010.
Far fewer people have been killed in traffic accidents during 2013, and law enforcement officers are taking aggressive measures to cut down the number of accidents. Through Sunday, there have been 14 highway related deaths in Harford this year.
Speaking to about 20 people at the Darlington firehouse, Bane noted that crime has decreased in recent years to where Harford County has the second-lowest crime rate in the state. Traffic safety is another matter, however.
"We are really out there hammering the violator, but it isn't just traffic enforcement that makes a difference," Bane said.
He said members of the public must be educated, local EMS providers must have all the resources they need and roads must be engineered properly.
The sheriff said many secondary roads in Harford are former dirt farm roads that have been paved over.
"That's not good engineering and we're paying that price for that today... We can't run radar [to catch speeders] because we have no place safe to pull a vehicle over," he explained.
Law enforcement officials are also working to reintroduce the KISS [Kids in Safety Seats] to ensure all children in the county are placed in proper car safety seats to reduce the potential for injury and death.
They're also looking into measures to stop drivers who pass stopped school buses, which children are getting off and on.
"We are looking at technology to reduce the number of vehicles that are passing school buses," Bane said.
The sheriff said drivers also take secondary roads, which are less congested than state highways, but are driving on them in the same manner as state roads, which he called "a formula for disaster" since they are not designed to handle the same level of traffic as a state highway.
"I remember when it was only one traffic light in all of Harford County, but those good old days are gone," Bane said.
The sheriff has served as co-chairman of a traffic safety task force, created via a resolution introduced by County Councilman Chad Shrodes in 2012.
Shrodes, who represents Darlington and the rest of northern Harford County, put forth a bill this month to create a Traffic Safety Advisory Board, a key recommendation from the members of the task force.
"This dream team of... individuals is going to come together and meet indefinitely to continue to make improvements in our county," Shrodes said Thursday.
He noted the prior task force's work has been noticed by state transportation officials, and Bane was recently recognized for his role as a chairman during a Maryland Sheriff's Association event.
"The main thing is, you're going to start seeing these crashes go down, these fatalities go down," Shrodes said.
Capt. Jack Meckley, commander of the Northern Precinct, said while there had been nine calls to report traffic accidents in northern Harford, there were zero actual accidents that the Sheriff's Office responded to during September.
He said deputies respond to many calls regarding accidents that turn out to be cases that resemble an accident, such as a driver pulled off the road.
"Nine times we were called for a motor vehicle crash [in September] and there was no crash at all," Meckley said.
He also reminded the audience that he was only presenting Sheriff's Office figures. Deputies respond to crashes on county roads, and Maryland State Police troopers respond to accidents on state roads, which are assigned a number such as Route 1 or Route 136.