Baltimore County got a pleasant surprise for the first six months of the year -- the number of crimes dropped 6.5 percent, compared with the same period in 1992.
Crime decreased in every category except robbery, which was up slightly. Murder, rape, assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson -- all were down.
There's still plenty of crime: 38,738 cases reported in the first six months of the year. That's a decrease of 2,694 cases over 1992.
Violent crime decreased by 3.6 percent, from 3,823 reported to 3,684. There were less than half as many murders, 10 as compared to 23. The county set its all-time murder record last year with 42 killings.
Rapes declined 11 percent, from 158 in 1992 to 140; aggravated assault declined 4.3 percent, from 2,578 to 2,466; burglary went down 10.9 percent, from 4,068 in 1992 to 3,626. Auto theft went down 12.3 percent, from 2,774 to 2,433.
The only category that showed an increase was robbery, up by four cases to 1,068. The slight increase was blamed on the surge in bank robberies, which nearly doubled: 28 last year, 51 this year, an increase of 82 percent.
Deputy Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill said the department has been authorized to spend $1 million on overtime pay to put more officers on the street.
"They'll be on patrol in patrol cars," said Deputy Chief Gambrill. "Some money [will go] to investigations. It will be in every precinct."
The $1 million is money the department saved because 61
officers have left the force since January. Only 32 officers have been added to the force since then.
Lt. Timothy Caslin, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4 for Baltimore County, said the force is seriously undermanned. The county has 225 fewer officers than it did in January 1992, he said.
"How long can you work the other guys, trying to make up the difference?" he said. "We're really concerned that people are going to burn out from all the overtime."