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Our View: One positive of the pandemic? At least crime numbers are down

With two high-profile, tragic exceptions, one positive about the coronavirus pandemic and the “stay-at-home” executive order has been a drop in crime and vehicular accidents in Carroll County. “Overall crime has been down,” Sheriff Jim DeWees told us. “DUI arrests, traffic crashes, they’re all down.”

Earlier this week, we compared year over year statistics from all the Carroll law enforcement agencies who responded to our requests, generally tracking from when the Board of County Commissioners issued a state of emergency March 13. (Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home March 30.)

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From March 13 to April 14, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office logged 23 calls in which someone threatened to harm themselves, 24 domestic violence calls, two suicides, 42 thefts, 24 traffic crashes and 10 nonfatal overdoses, according to DeWees. During the same period in 2019, there were 31 calls in which someone threatened to harm themselves, 27 domestic violence calls, one suicide, 70 thefts, 48 traffic crashes, and 14 nonfatal overdoses.

Those are significant decreases. Most of the municipalities are experiencing similar trends.

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Westminster Police Chief Thomas Ledwell said crime in his city has been declining by “a good amount compared to 2019." Part 1 crimes, which range from homicide to theft, have dropped, he said. In March 2020, there were 86 total crimes reported. The year before, there were 155, according to Ledwell.

In Manchester, Chief John Hess said traffic enforcement is significantly down. Calls were up slightly over last year, but down compared to the first two months of the year. “We have had no spikes in any one category and nothing serious,” Hess said, though they’ve been getting more calls from families asking police to check on their relatives.

Hampstead Police Chief David Snyder said from March 1 to the morning of April 13, there were three traffic crashes, one overdose, 11 arrests, four domestic incidents and one burglary. During the same period in 2019, there were seven crashes, no overdoses, 29 arrests, two domestic incidents and no burglaries. Domestic violence and overdoses have each seen a slight uptick, Snyder said.

The Sykesville Police Department handled only 13 incidents that required a report (meaning offenses that are serious in nature) compared to 35 such incidents in 2019, Sgt. Shawn Kilgore said, noting that traffic crashes have been nonexistent.

Mount Airy Police Chief Doug Reitz said as of April 13, there have been no burglaries in 2020, whereas there were three in the first quarter of 2019. He did not know whether this could be attributed to the state of emergency or executive orders. Vehicle collisions are down by almost 50%, he said, but property checks have more than doubled.

Mount Airy was, however, the site of a horrific incident on April 2, when an 18-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman were shot and killed, the shooter eventually killing himself. The shooter was the estranged husband of the female victim, the sort of domestic incident that is, thankfully, rare in Carroll, but does occur occasionally. Even more rare was the March 18 killing police say started in Westminster and ended with a Taneytown man’s death in West Virginia. Three Carroll countians have been arrested and charged with murder.

Maryland State Police reports the most marked decrease in incidents year over year. According to Westminster Barrack Commander Lt. Rebecca Bosley, between March 13 and April 14 of this year, state police investigated 50 collisions and 47 crimes compared to 132 collisions and 133 crimes in 2019.

That crime and accidents are down is not necessarily a surprise — not with far fewer people outside their homes, particularly at night, and with far fewer automobiles on the roads — but we’ll take a positive where we can get it right now.

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