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Violent crime rises in first quarter of '04

Howard County had 23 more violent crimes and 106 more property crimes in the first three months of this year than in the same period last year, according to police statistics released yesterday.

But data showed that last year, the county's overall crime rate was at its lowest level in nearly 30 years: 2,870 per 100,000 residents.

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Police were pleased with the dropping crime rate, particularly in light of the county's increasing population, said Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman.

She said longer-term studies help the police identify trends, while the department tries not to read too much into statistics from shorter periods. The changes reported for January through March "are considered small fluctuations," Llewellyn said. "We're not taking too much credit for any slight downward trend or overly concerned about any slight upward trend."

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Police compile crime statistics each quarter for the FBI.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of aggravated assaults jumped to 78, compared with 51 the year before. But the number of rape cases dropped from nine to four, and the county reported one murder, the same number as last year.

Thefts rose from 1,099 to 1,201, and there were 12 more burglaries, rising from 274 to 286. But motor vehicle theft dropped by eight incidents, from 165 to 157.

Llewellyn said auto theft is one area in which police responded to yearly trends by creating an auto theft task force in the late 1990s.

Even as the population continued to expand in Howard County -- reaching 266,976 in January -- the first part of this year brought a drop in total calls for service. After increases in the first quarters of 2002 and last year, the number dipped by more than 1,800 calls, to 28,850 this year.

Police arrested more than 15 percent more adults this year than last year. Juvenile arrests overall declined by 3 percent, but juvenile arrests in violent crimes jumped from seven to 17.

The number of police officers assaulted rose by one, to 24.


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