Officials: Killings up in Baltimore Co., but no rise in 'random crime'

Baltimore County ended 2011 with 30 homicides — a spike from the 20 killings in 2010.

Still, police say, the homicide tally is one of the lowest in recent years and not a cause for alarm. Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said 2010 was "an anomaly."

"That was a very low year. It's important to look at the circumstances behind each of these crimes. We're not seeing any increase in random crime. Almost all of these homicides involve people who knew each other," Armacost said.

Baltimore City, which has a population of 620,000, finished 2011 with 196 homicides — and officials, including Gov. Martin O'Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, noted that the number was the lowest since the late 1970s.

Baltimore County, which has a population of 805,000, had 40 homicides in 2005; 34 in 2006; 35 in 2007; 30 in 2008; and 31 in 2009.

Last year, county officials, including County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, held a news conference to announce 2010's low homicide tally of 20, and they credited the hard work and crime-fighting strategies of the Police Department. State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger called the decrease "remarkable."

Of 2011's 30 homicides, Baltimore County police have made arrests in or closed 24 cases, giving detectives an 80 percent clearance rate. Detectives have made arrests or closed 17 of 2010's 20 homicides, Armacost said.

In Baltimore City, the clearance rate for 2011 homicides is 46 percent.

Of the Baltimore County killings, 10 involved domestic violence, eight involved acquaintances, three were drug-related and nine have not been classified by detectives.

"Of those nine, almost all of those likely also involve some kind of relationship," Armacost said. "We stress that point. It's the random crime that causes most fear. The overwhelming majority of these crimes involve people who know each other."

The six unsolved homicides from 2011 include the killing of a 19-year-old man outside Towson Town Center mall in December and the shooting of a 36-year-old man outside Club Baltimore in Rosedale in July. The killing of 54-year-old Yulia Pogrebenko of Irkutsk, Russia, in February is also considered open. Detectives are tracking down a suspect in that case, Armacost said.

"They're feeling pretty optimistic they're going to be closing some of those soon," Armacost said of the open cases. "We think our clearance rate for 2011 will be excellent."