Overdose fatalities down by 8 percent in Harford

When law enforcement leaders opened their weekly CompStat meeting to the public last week, a decrease in the number of opioid-related deaths and non-fatal overdoses was among the key statistics presented.

There have been 54 fatal overdoses and 244 non-fatal overdoses reported to law enforcement this year, for 300 total, as of Sept. 2. That compares to 61 fatalities and 253 non-fatal overdoses as of the same time in 2017, for a total of 314 a year ago, according to Capt. Michael Crabbs, the new commander of the Harford County Narcotics Task Force.

That means an 8.2 percent drop in fatal overdoses and a 3.5 percent drop in non-fatals, according to Sheriff’s Office data.

The number of opioid-related overdoses has spiked in recent years — the total fatalities increased by 200 percent over two years, with 27 in 2015 compared to 81 in 2017, according to Sheriff’s Office data.

There were 101 deaths in Harford County in 2017 from overdoses on all drugs and alcohol, and there were 30 fatal drug and alcohol overdoses in the first quarter of 2018, according to Joe Ryan, manager of the county’s Office of Drug Control Policy. Ryan cited data from the state medical examiner’s office.

There were 11 overdose deaths in Harford in 2000, according to Ryan.

“It’s a problem that’s creeping in our county and all counties across the country,” Ryan said.

Other crimes updated

Police also provided updates on other individual incidents that happened in recent weeks and months, such as an armed robbery of a Harford Bank branch in Bel Air last Wednesday morning.

“We’ve had numerous phone calls on possible leads,” Detective Sgt. Henry Marchesani, of the Bel Air Police, said. No arrest, however, had been made as of Tuesday. Bel Air Police are leading the investigation.

Officers from allied agencies in the area, such as the Sheriff’s Office, State Police and Natural Resources Police, responded when the robbery was reported. The Sheriff’s Office forensic unit, according to Marchesani, is processing evidence recovered by police.

Still images of the suspect, taken from surveillance cameras, were shown on a screen.

“If anybody in the back thinks they recognize this guy, please call the Bel Air Police Department,” Davis told audience members.

Gahler praised Bel Air officers for their “quick thinking” to request that schools near the bank be locked down, considering Wednesday was only the second day of the 2018-19 school year for Harford County Public Schools.

“I’ve heard some good feedback about that,” he said.

Vehicle chase

Capt. Peter Georgiades, commander of the Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct in Edgewood, recounted the Aug. 23 chase of a vehicle that had been reported stolen and was detected by a deputy participating in a saturation patrol and using an electronic license plate reader. The deputy followed the vehicle and alerted other units in the area.

Multiple agencies were involved as the suspects drove north on Route 24, entered Bel Air and crashed near the IHOP restaurant in Bel Air Plaza. The four juvenile suspects got out of the SUV and ran, but officers quickly caught them, Georgiades said.

Investigators found the keys to a pickup truck they suspected the youths planned to steal at a later time, as well as credit cards and other items taken in prior thefts from vehicles. The evidence allowed police to close three auto theft cases in Belcamp, according to Georgiades. He said thefts from vehicles have dropped in that area since the quartet was arrested.

Davis said thieves taking items from unlocked vehicles is “our biggest issue right now.”

The SUV involved in the chase was stolen using its key, according to Georgiades. The vehicle was reported stolen Aug. 21, Lt. Tim Mullin, commander of the Bel Air Barrack of the Maryland State Police, said.

“The victim told troopers that she leaves her key fob in the car because she loses it,” Mullin said.

Capt. Tracy Penman, commander of the Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville, warned about ongoing vehicle break-ins that are consistent with prior incidents tied to members of the Felony Lane Gang, a network of people who travel the East Coast and target vehicles driven by women making quick stops at stores or day-care centers, or park before walking or running on a trail.

The thieves smash windows, steal checkbooks, drivers’ licenses and credit cards, use the credit cards to make purchases and try to cash the checks at banks, according to Penman.

“You have to be really careful in what you’re doing, because they are watching and your credit card information will end up all over the country,” Penman said.

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