First-quarter crime figures released yesterday by the Howard County Police Department indicate that violent crimes are increasing while crimes against property are decreasing.
Although serious crime dropped 9 percent in Howard County during the first three months of 1996, crimes against people jumped 91 percent, fueled by rising robbery and aggravated assault rates. Murder and rape also are in the category.
Juvenile arrests for serious crimes leaped 70 percent -- with violent-crime charges nearly quadrupling from 15 during the first three months of 1995 to 56 for the same period this year.
For the most part, the latest statistics mirror trends from 1995, including increases in arrests of juveniles, assaults and robberies. Police said they can't pinpoint the reason crime is increasing, but they note factors such as increased population.
Property crimes -- burglary, theft and auto theft -- decreased 14 percent, leading to an overall 9 percent drop in serious crime between January and March. Serious crime includes violent and property crimes.
"We're growing up," said Joseph Downing Ford III of Ellicott City. "The problems of the city are becoming more prevalent in the county."
Ford has firsthand knowledge of crime. A gunman robbed him of his wallet in February as he was leaving his Annapolis Junction workplace.
"This is a problem," he said. "What I went through is beyond control. All this crime is a society problem."
Robberies increased 65 percent, rising from 46 in the first quarter of 1995 to 76 for the same period this year. And aggravated assaults more than doubled, from 54 last year to 117 this year.
Seth Qubeck is a clerk at the Royal Farms store in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, an area frequently targeted by robbers. He said he and his co-workers are wary of everyone.
When he was hired, his boss warned him of frequent convenience store robberies around the county. "The neighborhood's getting worse," Qubeck said.
Sgt. Steven Keller, county police spokesman, said criminals have had more targets to choose from as residents and companies have moved to the county. Howard's population has grown by more than 5,000 since the 1995 first-quarter report.
Gunmen robbed a post office, a pharmacy, fast-food restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores in the first quarter. And people have been robbed at mailboxes, doorsteps and lakesides.
Police said many crimes were by juveniles. And victims' descriptions in many of the unsolved cases usually point to teen-agers. Police have arrested 33 juveniles for robbery, up from three in the first quarter of 1995.
Keller said police do not know why juvenile crime appears to be rising, but he said problems with gangs have led to many incidents of vandalism and street robberies.
In January, police arrested five Howard High School students on gun and robbery charges in a string of robberies in school bathrooms. The same month, three other boys, 11 to 13, were charged with burning playground equipment at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Savage.
Drew Watt, supervisor of Juvenile Services in Howard County, said his office has been getting many more juvenile offenders in the past year, but he said that is consistent with other counties.
"There does appear to be a problem," Watt said. "But there's really not one particular factor why it's happening."
Police have responded to the growing problem with several programs, including D.A.R.E. (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education), C.A.P. (Cops as Peers) and G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training).
But the most highly publicized crimes of the first quarter didn't involve juvenile offenders.
A 28-year-old Columbia man was charged in the March 20 rape of a 15-year-old Columbia girl, who was forced from a bench in front of a Columbia library and raped in front of her 7-year-old dTC sister in nearby woods. The man was charged after his family turned him in, based on the victim's description to police.
On Jan. 19, an armed man abducted a Columbia woman outside her home, made her drive to Lake Elkhorn, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her five times. She was seriously injured.
One homicide occurred from January to March. Barbara Susan Dorman, 36, daughter of longtime state Sen. Arthur Dorman, was killed Feb. 12. Her boyfriend, Gary Charles Moncarz, 41, of North Laurel has been charged with first-degree murder.
Statewide statistics for 1995 released last week indicate that Howard is relatively calm compared to neighboring counties.
Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties had more than three times as many homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults as Howard -- but they are more urban and have many more residents.
Statewide first-quarter crime statistics for 1996 are not available, state police said.
Keller said work with other jurisdictions has helped Howard County police arrest criminals involved in crime sprees across county lines.
There were 25 more arrests in the first quarter of this year than in the same period last year.
"You've got more crimes; hopefully you're going to have more arrests," Keller said.
Serious Howard County crimes
Offense .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1995 .. .. 1996 .. % change
Burglaries .. .. .. .. .. ... 295 .. ... 240 .. .. -18.6
Rapes . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 6 .. .. .. 9 .. .. +50.0
Homicides ... .. .. .. .. .. .. 0 .. .. .. 1 .. . +100.0
Robberies ... .. .. .. .. .. . 46 .. .. . 76 .. .. +65.2
Assaults . .. .. .. .. .. .. . 54 .. ... 117 .. . +116.7
Thefts ... .. .. .. .. .. . 1,579 .. . 1,384 .. .. -12.3
Vehicle thefts . .. .. .. ... 204 .. ... 156 .. .. -23.5
Total serious crimes . .. . 2,184 .. . 1,983 .. ... -9.2
Serious-crime arrests ... ... 360 .. ... 842 .. . +133.9
Adult arrests .. .. .. .. ... 241 .. ... 265 .. .. +10.0
Juvenile arrests .. .. .. ... 119 .. ... 217 .. .. +82.4