County ranked 2nd safest

The numbers are in, and they show Harford County is apparently safer than ever.

The county is the second safest jurisdiction in Maryland, according to the state's new uniform crime report for 2011.

Last year, Harford was fifth. Now only Carroll County is deemed safer.

"I think a lot of jurisdictions would like to say that," Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane said Thursday about the new high. "I don't want to sound elitist, but it was something I was hoping for a long time."

The county's crime rate fell 14.5 percent since 2010, with steep drops in all categories. Murder fell by 16.7 percent, rape by 38.1 percent, robbery by 24.5 percent, aggravated assault by 23.3 percent, breaking and entering by 12.4 percent, larceny by 12.2 percent and motor vehicle theft by 12.3 percent.

The crime rate was 1,858.8, for a population of 247,147 in 2011. By comparison, the state had an overall crime rate of 3,354.6.

Harford's rate in 2010 was 2,173.8 for a population of 246,347.

That is half of the 1975 rate – 4,336 for a population of just 129,059.

"I am pleased and quite proud of the dedicated and courageous law enforcement professionals that serve the citizens of Harford County each day," Harford County Executive David Craig said in a statement Thursday.

"We have an excellent Sheriff's Office and a strong and effective partnership between law enforcement agencies including the Maryland State Police and the three municipalities," Craig said. "I extend congratulations to the State's Attorney's Office and all law enforcement agencies for their outstanding efforts in reducing crime in Harford County."

Bane said it also means a lot to him that Harford is the safest in the I-95 corridor. Baltimore County, for example, was 16th and Cecil County was 20th.

"There must be something that we are doing right," Bane said, although he was cautious about making projections about a No. 1 ranking in the future.

"When you talk about crime rates, you never know how things are going to go. Next year you might see a situation where the crime rate is up," he said. "We are striving to be better. We want Harford to be the safest, not second safest."

The municipalities' crime rates all went down, too, except for breaking and entering in Aberdeen, which jumped by 47.8 percent.

The Maryland State Police's Bel Air Barrack also reported increases of 34.2 percent in aggravated assault, 69.9 percent in larceny and 5 percent in motor vehicle theft.

"One of the things I have to credit with these numbers is the men and women in law enforcement in Harford County," Bane said, explaining that although the department is "severely understaffed," the streets remain safe.

He said the department will soon replace the CrimeStat program with a new initiative to hit harder at drugs and violence, the county's "two most serious problems."

"If you attack the drug trade, you are making a difference right there because gangs are very violent," he said. "Studies have shown that it is a very small number of offenders or repeat criminals with rap sheets that are rather long that cite violations with crime or violence."

Bane noted crime rates are one of the top factors businesses and residents look at when relocating.

He said when Wegmans was moving to Bel Air, a store representative showed him a detailed crime map of Harford County and asked about a "tiny pocket" with high crime, which Bane reassured would not affect the business because the area was low-income and crime was mostly self-contained.

"Everybody wants to live where it's safe. They want their kids to go to safe schools, they want their businesses to be safe, they want their homes to be safe," he said.

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