Armed robberies continue to rise in Howard County, jumping 42.4 percent during the first nine months of this year despite the creation of a specialized police unit, according to new police statistics.
There were 178 armed robberies from January through September, up from 125 during the same period last year.
Police Chief Wayne Livesay said yesterday that it will take time for the five-officer unit to have an impact on business and street robberies. Additional holiday patrols, including officers on foot and in marked cruisers, will begin Friday.
Overall, violent crime -- homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults -- was up 12 percent from last year. The number of homicides, three, stayed the same. Reported rapes dropped from 28 to 24, but aggravated assaults increased from 317 to 355.
"These [violent crime] figures are still lower than they were in 1995," Livesay said. "So the overall trend is still down."
In the property crime category, burglaries increased 8.9 percent, from 895 during the first nine months of last year to 975 during the same period this year. Car thefts also rose, from 464 to 533.
"I'd like to have no crime at all," Livesay said. "But that isn't possible. So the question is, how can we keep it as low as we can without violating anyone's civil rights?"
Yesterday, Detectives released a composite sketch of one of at least three gunmen who forced their way into an apartment in the 8700 block of Airybrink Lane in Long Reach on Saturday night. Police said the gunmen knocked on the door about 8: 22 p.m. and when a woman answered it, they forced their way in.
They held four of the residents at gunpoint while they ransacked the apartment and left with three cellular phones and a jacket, police said.
Detectives are also stymied by what have been referred to as the "Abe Lincoln" robberies. A man dressed like the former president and occasionally acting with a partner has robbed about a dozen businesses in the Baltimore-Washington area.
In Howard, he has robbed three businesses, most recently the Craft Plus store in the 3300 block of Centennial Lane in Ellicott City, on Nov. 6.
No arrests have been made in the robberies of a Mobil gas station and Jerry's Pizza and Subs in Owen Brown Village Center this month.