I noticed the other day in a police report that crime in 1990 in Howard County showed a marked decrease from previous years. As a comedian -- whom I don't remember -- once said of a similar report, "You're not trying!" Well, folks, they sure seem to be trying harder in this county since the beginning of 1991.

We're just over a month and a half into 1991, and we seem to be going for some kind of record. On New Year's Day, there were shootings and assaults at two parties; there have been murders; there have been allegations of sexual misconductin a mall men's room, embezzlement, arson, youths running amok in two county high schools, rapes, muggings and an Ellicott City man making national news by being charged with a plot to blow up chemical storage tanks in Norfolk, Va., in an attempt at insurance fraud.

Doesn't it seem like almost every night on the evenings news there is some story with a Howard County connection? I know I'm exaggerating, but we seem to be getting more than our share of crime and tragedy lately. When I hear some reference to the county as the lead-in tosome story coming up on TV or radio news, I begin to think: Now what?

What is the matter with some people in the county? Are they freaking out because of the war? The winter? We haven't had that bad a winter so far. Is it because we're growing too fast and the county istrying to mimic the cities? Beats the heck out of me! This apparent crime trend is something the new county police chief, whoever it willbe, will have to look forward to, among other things.

Speaking oflaw enforcement-related matters, why did it take so long to resolve the Pruitt brothers matter in the sheriff's office? I mean, this alleged inappropriate behavior has apparently been going on for 10 years or so: behavior unbecoming of their position, and refusing to obey orders to cease and desist their Nazi "mimicry," as someone put it.

There have been hearings and boards to study the situation ad nauseam. It's like nobody wanted to take a stand, just pass it on to someoneelse like a hot potato. I think the voters noticed this last fall. Howard countians should thank Sheriff Michael Chiuchiolo for finally handling this situation the way it should have been handled quite a while ago. His decision to fire the two deputies is to be appealed, I understand, so we may not have heard the last of this sorry episode.

In other news in the county, we see that County Executive Charles I. Ecker, once a teacher and a Howard County school administrator, wants to have the county violate a contract with the teachers and not allow them to receive their agreed-upon 6 percent wage increase. If this measure is allowed, it would set a bad precedent as to the integrity of future teacher contract negotiations within this jurisdiction.

I thought we were looking to maintain quality education in Howard County, not undermine the morale of the providers. Sure, these are badeconomic times, but one should not ignore contracts that were agreedupon before there was any hint of economic woes. Any action of this nature would make all future contracts valueless. I hardly think thatif the economy suddenly had a massive upturn, the teachers would want to stop in the middle of their current contract and ask to have it renegotiated like some overpaid ballplayer. It should be noted that the superintendent of schools, Michael Hickey, feels obligated to honor the three-year agreement.

To end on a lighter note for those of you who could use a chuckle during these times, I spotted an interesting ad recently. The ad was for a Howard County dentistry practice, and among the many services offered, there was this feature: "Emergencies treated same day."

We can take comfort that someone still takes our pain seriously.

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