Violent crime in Howard County last year reached its lowest level since 2003, according to statistics released yesterday by the county Police Department.
In 2007, the rate of violent crime dropped almost 7 percent from the year before, going from 221 incidents per 100,000 people, to 206, according to the report, which summarize violent offenses in the county from 2003 to 2007. The statewide rate for violent crime is 678 per 100,000 people.
The total number of violent crimes in 2007 was 577, in a county with a population of almost 280,000.
From 2006 to 2007, Howard saw modest decreases in rapes, robberies and burglaries. Car thefts decreased almost 17 percent. Thefts increased by about 5 percent, and there were five homicides in 2007, up from four the year before.
"Overall, we're very very happy that we saw some decreases in some of the violent crime and some of the more serious crimes," said Howard County Police Chief William McMahon. "Not to say that we're done [with] our work - there are still folks out there being victimized by crime."
Although the number of crimes has decreased, the number of people that police are arresting has risen. In many cases, people aren't charged after police investigate.
The county saw a rise of more than 40 percent in adult arrests for aggravated assaults from 2006 to 2007. Juvenile arrests for aggravated assaults increased more than 70 percent during the same period. The total number of aggravated assault cases, however, remained the same at 292.
Police say that's partly the result of the domestic violence unit the department created about a year ago. But the arrest statistics caught the department's eye.
The number of total adult violent crime arrests increased more than 20 percent from 2006 to 2007. Juvenile violent crime arrests increased more than 40 percent.
"Frankly, I'm not sure why we've had more of those arrests," McMahon said. "I think one of the reasons is we've been able to put more officers in the department last year."
McMahon cautioned that despite the reported reductions in crime, residents should be wary of leaving doors and windows open as the weather gets warmer.
"People are going to take advantage of that," he said. "Even though we're pleased, we still have to keep that in mind."