There were 20 homicides in Baltimore County last year, a 35.5 percent drop over the previous year, according to figures released Monday.
The 2010 number is half that of the county's total for 2005, the year that represented the peak over the past five years. The statistics continue a downward trend in the county's most serious crimes and represent a significant drop from the 31 killings in 2009.
Speaking with reporters at police headquarters in Towson, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called the drop in homicides a "remarkable achievement" and a "historic low."
Kamenetz said that police officers had "fought to keep us safe with every tool at their disposal, from detailed statistical analysis to regional partnerships with our neighboring jurisdictions to good old-fashioned police work."
The increasing use of technology, including DNA analysis, he said, has made a big difference. The results, Kamenetz went on, were "undeniable."
There have been five homicides this year in the county, Police Chief James W. Johnson said, the same number as there were at this point in 2010. He said that of the 20 homicides reported last year, 17 had been cleared. He ascribed the high "solve rate" to effective police work, a "partnership with the community" and a determination to "holistically focus on these cases."
In the same vein, the county's chief prosecutor, Scott Shellenberger, said the county's witness protection program had also played a role, enabling tipsters to come forward without fear of retribution. He spoke of the need to "constantly assure witnesses in Baltimore County that they're going to be safe."
Shellenberger said he believes the decrease in homicides in Baltimore County is partially due to the quality of the cases the Police Department presents to his office. Good police work, he said, leads to "solid convictions" and lengthy sentences that keep violent criminals off the street.
"If you are in jail," he said, "you cannot commit another crime."
Among the 20 homicides reported last year in the county, the case that drew the most attention was the killing of William "Ray" Porter, who was shot March 1 outside his gas station in Towson. Police said it turned out to be a contract hit orchestrated by Porter's wife, Karla. She and the man accused of pulling the trigger, Walter P. Bishop, have yet to stand trial. Four other people have been convicted for their roles in the scheme.
The Police Pepartment plans within the next few weeks to release statistics of last year's crimes in lesser categories.
Addressing other matters, the police chief said his department was vigorously seeking whoever recently vandalized two religious statues, one outside Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson and the other in the garden of St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Overlea. "We'll put all the resources we need to, to address that crime," Johnson said.
And, in the case of Sgt. Cole B. Weston, the head of the Baltimore County police union who is being investigated after a sedan driver accused him of assault last week, Johnson said that Weston, "like any other citizen, is entitled to due process."
Weston's case has been referred to the Harford County state's attorney's office to avoid conflicts of interest. Johnson said that because the allegations against Weston, who has not been charged, do not constitute a possible felony, he remains on duty pending the results of the investigation.
Baltimore Co. homicides by year YearHomicides200540200634200736200830200931201020