Crime in Carroll County dropped 14.4 percent during the first six months of 1999 and the decline is no fluke, authorities say, citing their efforts to target repeat offenders and tap state-funded crime prevention programs.
Compared with the first six months of 1998, Carroll's statistics surpassed the statewide 9 percent decline in overall crimes and showed a 1 percent rise in violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults.
The statistics from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program are compiled by the Central Records Division of the Maryland State Police and include offenses reported to state police at the Westminster barracks, as well as those reported by police in Westminster, Hampstead, Manchester, Taneytown and Sykesville, said Lt. Terry Katz, state police commander in Westminster.
The overall figures for the Western Maryland region, which includes Carroll, Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, decreased by 8.3 percent, the UCRP report shows.
"The slight increase in violent crime is not good, of course, but fortunately the totals [two murders, 18 rapes, 29 robberies and 96 aggravated assaults] are not high in terms of quantity," Katz said.
During the same period in 1998, no murders, 24 rapes, 27 robberies and 92 aggravated assaults occurred.
This year, a Westminster man, Wayne A. Wimsett, 39, was charged with first-degree murder and assault in the death of Jack Austin White, 46, of Union Bridge in February. In April, Kristi Lynn Ziemski, 19, was charged in the stabbing death of her mother, Doris A. Ziemski, 52, of Hampstead. The woman was found dead in her townhouse.
Overall, the decline in crime should ease any concerns "because these numbers mean our efforts in HotSpot areas are working," he said, referring to places where there have been a rash of crimes and police are quick to respond.
Katz cited series of convenience store and fast-food restaurant robberies last winter in South Carroll and, more recently, a number of smash-and-grab burglaries in the Finksburg area.
"They were solved by patrol troopers getting out into the community and gathering intelligence on individuals who were known repeat offenders," Katz said. "Armed with that knowledge, added patrols from the special operations unit were brought in to concentrate on the crimes and certain individuals were quickly apprehended."
The decline in burglaries and break-ins -- from 375 in the first six months of 1998 to 335 for the same period this year -- reflects the success in getting more repeat offenders off the street, Katz said.
Carroll's greatest decline in the same half-year period was in larceny thefts, down from 1,224 to 1,013 -- about 17 percent.
Many of the break-ins and thefts are drug-driven, Katz said, and leads often come from the community.
"A neighbor knows Mr. John Smith is away on vacation and calls about suspicious activity, for instance," Katz said. "Knowing who the likely suspects are helps solve the crimes more quickly, and the state's attorney's office has been very aggressive in prosecuting these individuals, getting them off the street either by incarceration or into drug treatment programs."
Katz said he believes juvenile crime has also declined in Carroll because of such programs as Operation Spotlight, which has probation officers from the Department of Juvenile Justice working in three county high schools.
They share information with uniformed officers, he noted. A probation officer might not know juveniles are breaking curfew, but uniformed officers on patrol will see them and send them home.
"The tighter and more consistent the supervision, the less likely the juvenile is to get into trouble again," Katz said.