Murders, rapes and other violent crimes in Howard County fell 5 percent in the first three months this year, county police records show.
No murders were reported through March 31, down from one in the same period a year ago.
Rapes declined by one -- from seven in the first quarter of last year to six this year. Robberies also dropped, from 26 last year to 24, and assaults decreased from 478 to 456.
Chief James N. Robey said he had no explanation for the decline.
"Crime is influenced by a lot of factors," he said. "I'm just pleased serious crime is down."
Property crimes, including burglaries and thefts, fell 5.5 percent, the statistics showed.
During the same period, vehicle thefts increased 16 percent, from 232 during the first quarter in 1992 to 270 this year, statistics showed. Twenty-six percent of those vehicle thefts have been solved.
There were 2,254 crimes reported this quarter compared with 2,382 during the same period last year.
Although no murders were reported in the first three months this year, police have since investigated the beating death of a 38-year-old Baltimore woman whose body was found in Rocky Gorge Reservoir in Scaggsville last month. Her boyfriend, who was charged in an arrest warrant with first-degree murder, remains at large.
On January 28, state police charged Robert L. Hampton, 49, of Upper Marlboro, with fatally shooting his estranged wife, Janet L. Hampton, 46, near the Route 100 overpass. Because state police handled the case, it wasn't included in the county statistics.