PEOPLE MOVE to the suburbs for a variety of reasons, but good schools and low crime top most lists. People's sense of security, however, motivates crooks who like victims who can be caught off guard. Add the affluence of suburban neighborhoods as an incentive and you can see why life in these communities is never crime free.
But recent statistics do show significant decreases in Howard County's crime rates for the first quarter of this year. There were fewer rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, petty thefts and car thefts in the first three months of 1998. The number of homicides was unchanged -- one.
The reduction in auto thefts is worth special note. In the first quarter of this year, 149 cars were reported stolen, compared with 204 in the same period for 1997. The number of auto thefts is below those reported for the first quarter of 1996 as well.
A police spokesman praised efforts by a multicounty regional auto theft team. Because most car thefts in Howard County are attributed to teen-agers' joy-riding, the Police Department's emphasis on fighting juvenile crime should also receive some credit.
The number of juveniles arrested for property crimes declined from 174 in the first three months of 1997 to 165 this year. The number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes was halved, from 18 to nine. Programs -- in school and out -- to steer teens from trouble must remain a priority.
Keeping the crime rate low is a job for everyone. Talk about "community policing" isn't as prevalent in suburban settings as in the cities. But the need for police to communicate and establish cooperative relationships with the people they serve is just as strong.
Every citizen must think about what he or she can do to prevent crime. Simply remembering to lock a garage door or close an open window could help lower burglary statistics. Living in the suburbs doesn't mean a person can naively ignore the possibility of crime. Crime is everywhere. Fight it by making yourself less vulnerable.
Pub Date: 6/03/98