Homicides and property crimes in Howard County have hit their lowest levels in five years, but juvenile violent-crime arrests have continued to climb, according to police statistics released yesterday.
The county has had one homicide since Jan. 1, compared with six for the same period last year, according to statistics for the first nine months of the year. Fewer property crimes occurred in all categories - burglary, theft and stolen automobiles - that led to an overall decline of 2.3 percent through September.
Arrests of juveniles in violent crimes - which include aggravated assault, robbery, rape and homicide - spiked to 63 for the first nine months of this year, compared with 36 arrests for the same period last year.
Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, said she could not speculate on why juvenile arrests in violent crimes had risen. Total juvenile arrests - which includes arrests for violent and property crimes - fell nearly 7 percent, to 1,469.
"Anytime we see a significant increase or decrease in the statistics, we always take a closer look to evaluate the numbers," Llewellyn said. "That would certainly be true for juvenile violent-crime arrests."
Nationwide, arrests of juveniles in violent crimes have declined significantly, about 47 percent, since the mid-1990s, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jason A. Shapiro, a Columbia criminal defense attorney, said he has not seen any major shift in the nature of juveniles who are committing crimes, other than "peaks and valleys" in the types of crimes they commit.
"I have not seen us getting a harder core of client," he said.
Other crime categories showing slight increases in Howard this year include robbery and aggravated assault.
Arrests of adults in violent crimes have risen.
Two people were arrested in the county's only homicide this year, which involved the killing of a Baltimore woman at an Ellicott City apartment in March.
Police also arrested more people for rape, robbery and aggravated assaults this year, compared with the same period last year.
Jan. to Sept. 2003 2004
Homicide 6 1
Rape 39 32
Robbery 146 159
Aggravated assault 186 245
Burglary 893 881
Theft 3,757 3,720
Stolen autos 526 454
Juvenile arrests for violent crimes
Homicide 0 0
Rape 1 3
Robbery 20 31
Aggravated assault 15 29
Total violent crime 36 63
Source: Howard County Police Department