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Auto thefts in Annapolis, assaults in county push up crime rates


Violent crime in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County rose by nearly the same percentage in the first half of the year, city and county police said.

The county's increase of 9 percent was spurred largely by a growing number of aggravated assaults that police attributed to the sagging economy.

There were 449 aggravated assaults -- attacks in which a weapon other than a gun was used -- in the first half of the year compared to 380 during the first half of 1991, county police statistics show.

"People are out of work, the money situation isn't the greatest and they are fighting more often about money," said police spokesman Cpl. V. Richard Molloy.

The crime rate in Annapolis went up 10.1 percent, fueled largely by an increase in auto thefts.

City police blamed the increase from 34 to 49 car thefts mostly on the careless behavior of motorists who leave their keys in the ignition while they run an errand. Teen-agers often seize the moment to jump into the car and go "joy riding," said Officer Dermott Hickey, a police spokesman.

Police eventually recover the majority of stolen cars, he said. But the theft rate could be significantly reduced if "people realize they can't just leave their motors running when they go into a 7-Eleven," Mr. Hickey pointed out.

While the number of assaults increased in the county, robberies were down slightly, from 218 in the first half of last year to 201 during the first half of this year.

"Last year we had a banner year for robberies," Cpl. Molloy said. "But we made a lot of arrests too."

Robberies in the state capital went up from 70 in the first half of 1991 to 92 cases in the first half of this year, statistics show.

County police investigated seven homicides during the first half of the year, compared to six during the first half of 1991. Most of those cases have been some type of domestic dispute, Cpl. Molloy said.

But the first murder in Annapolis did not happen until July 9, a little more than a week after the end of the reporting period. Rudolph C. Holland, 21, was shot to death in the stairwell of Town Pines Court, a low-income housing complex off Clay Street.

Reported rapes in the city went up by half, from 12 to 18, mirroring a national upswing in recent years. The number of completed and attempted rapes reported nationwide increased 59 percent in 1991, according to the annual National Crime Survey by the U.S. Justice Department.

As in the city, reported rapes in the county are on the rise, from 46 in the first half of last year to 54 during the first half of last year.

"Rape is a crime of opportunity," explained Cpl. Molloy. "Homicide, rapes and aggravated assaults are something that we as a department can only enlighten people about, but we can't really prevent them."

Mr. Hickey attributed the increase in rapes reported in Annapolis largely to growing awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. Several women have charged their husbands with rape, he said.

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