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Baltimore County launches crime data dashboard; crime down 11% over three years

Baltimore County officials on Friday launched an interactive dashboard showing the past three years of county crime statistics, and that crime has broadly decreased across all categories since 2017 despite the record-breaking year of murders in 2019.

Crime in the first half of 2020 also has decreased compared with incidents reported in the first six months of 2019, 2018 and 2017, according to a statistical analysis.

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Police officials previously attributed the drop in crime to the lockdown orders and social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The dashboard, which features a mapping system so users can track the approximate areas of specific criminal activity, shows statistics related to eight “Part 1″ crime categories: homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, theft and arson, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics.

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Crime fell by 11% on average across all reported crimes from 2017 to 2019, and this year has decreased by 23% compared with the first half of 2019. Burglaries are down 35%, and robberies have declined 30%. Assaults have decreased by 24%, theft by 23% and motor vehicle thefts by 15%, according to the data.

The reduction in countywide crime from 2017 through 2019 was mainly due to a 10% decrease in thefts, the most frequent type of crime, accounting for 65% of all incidents.

There were also reductions in burglaries (22%), motor vehicle thefts (19%), robberies (23%), arson (28%) and trafficking (73%) from 2017 to 2019.

County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said in a statement that county law enforcement “will continue to work relentlessly on building public trust.”

Through June, the number of murders in 2020 are 15% lower than for the first six months of 2019, Baltimore County’s deadliest year on record. Last year ended with 49 homicides, a more than 80% increase in murders over the previous year.

Police originally recorded 50 murders in 2019, but one of them was later ruled not to be a homicide, according to county spokesman Sean Naron.

Seventeen homicides have occurred so far this year in Baltimore County, according to the data. The five-year average for homicides from 2015 to 2019 was 38 murders; from 2012 to 2016, an average of 27 people were killed each year.

The most crimes this year have been committed in the Wilkens Precinct, which encompasses the southwestern county communities of Catonsville, Arbutus, Lansdowne and Halethorpe, and where 1,206 Part 1 crimes were recorded in the first half of 2020, according to a statistical analysis. Thefts account for more than 66% of those incidents.

Still, crime has been steadily falling in the precinct since 2017, when 1,671 criminal incidents were reported in the first six months. Compared to the first half of 2019, crime fell 15%.

The Dundalk Precinct, where crime has also been dropping from year to year, follows Wilkens in the highest number of incidents, with 1,103 crimes reported in the first half of 2020 — more than half of those, 56%, were thefts. That figure is nearly 26% lower than the number of reported crimes in 2019.

Crime in the Towson Precinct has decreased by more than 36% since 2017, the beginning year for the county’s data collection. In the first half of 2020, 926 crimes were reported there, and 694 of those incidents were thefts.

Under the “public safety dashboard,” users can focus on a specific category, like homicides. The dashboard will show how many homicides have been committed since January 2017 — 119, according to the data — and allows users to narrow their search based on time, precinct and the ZIP code in which it occurred.

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The dashboard also shows a month-to-month comparison of homicide data compared to the same month the previous year. From March to June amid statewide lockdown orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus, county crime decreased by 38.2% over the same period last year, according to the data.

The dashboard will be updated with new crime statistics monthly, according to a news release.

“We’re pleased that the dashboard shows that crime is decreasing in Baltimore County, and that Baltimore County remains a safe place to live, work, and raise a family,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a statement.

The dashboard is a piece of an ongoing transparency push by Olszewski’s administration.

“Residents deserve to know exactly what’s happening in their communities, and this dashboard shines a light on crime statistics in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said.

County officials launched an open budget tool in June last year. In March, they announced they would implement BCSTAT, a management program that is using data collected by county agencies to drive decisions and are making the data available to the public.

BCSTAT, which functions within the Olszewski’s Office of Government Reform and Strategic Initiative, is tasked with compiling and analyzing data that is released through the county’s Open Data Portal.

Olszewksi in June announced the creation of a publish dashboard that will display the number and disposition of complaints filed against officers without naming the accused officers, reported instances when an officer uses force and traffic stop data broken down by race.

The police dashboard will be released in the coming weeks, according to a news release.

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