A recent poll of Anne Arundel County residents listed crime and the state of the economy as the area’s most pressing challenges.
Approximately 36% of the 586 county residents who responded to the survey conducted in the last week of October cited crime as a top concern, while 23% pointed to the state of the economy, including employment, cost of living and the business environment, as a major issue. The poll was conducted by Anne Arundel Community College and the Center for the Study of Local Issues.
Crime has consistently ranked as a major concern in the survey over the past year, with 24% viewing it as a top issue six months ago and 27% a year ago. Meanwhile, concern about the economy has declined. Six months ago, 22% of respondents cited it as a top issue; a year ago, 32% did.
Increased concern over public safety generally aligns with crime trends over the past year in Anne Arundel.
Though the county’s homicide rate has stayed almost the same, with 12 victims so far this year and 13 in the same period last year, according to Anne Arundel County Police Department spokesperson Justin Mulcahy, the city of Annapolis has seen a significant uptick. So far, the city has reported nine homicide victims this year as opposed to one at this time last year.
A shooting in June on Paddington Place in Annapolis that resulted in the deaths of three people contributed to that uptick. Another factor driving crime, including a 20% increase in gun violence since last year, is the number of incidents involving young people, said Annapolis Police Chief Edward Jackson.
“That’s a phenomenon that’s not unique to the city of Annapolis, it’s all over the place, all over the country, throughout the state of Maryland,” Jackson said. “Most of it is retaliatory, neighborhood disputes.”
According to Annapolis Police spokesperson Shepard Bennett, there are few records on how many young people have committed crimes because of restrictions passed by the General Assembly on arresting or charging juveniles.
“Juveniles have been empowered by legislation and they feel the law favors them not being held accountable when they do commit crime,” Jackson said. “A lot of them are not going to school and we see this throughout Anne Arundel County, especially in underserved communities in Annapolis, subsidized housing, parents who are struggling with poverty and it’s a challenge for educators.”
In order to reverse the trend Jackson said it’s necessary to look at the punishments handed down to youthful offenders from a legislative and judicial perspective. Incarceration is not the only way to hold them accountable or break the cycle of youth crime, he said, adding that providing social services and focusing more attention on school truancy could also produce positive results.
“Crime is anti-social behavior,” he said. “A lot of these juveniles are crying out for help, and it manifests itself in the behaviors that we’re seeing, the violence that we’re seeing. It’s a whole host of social and government agencies that need to participate if we want to get a handle on this juvenile violence.”
Many survey respondents specified guns as a concern as well as shootings in Annapolis and the lack of an adequate plan to restore and maintain public safety. Some took issue with what they felt was Gov. Wes Moore’s and the Maryland legislature’s hands-off approach to holding juveniles responsible for crimes.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Worries about crime crossed partisan lines, with 36% of Democrats, 42% of Republicans and 32% of unaffiliated voters ranking it a major concern..
The second highest-rated issue was the economy. It was most concerning to 31% of unaffiliated voters, 22% of Democrats and 18% of Republicans. Respondents noted rising inflation, food and gas prices as major components.
“We are still in this high inflationary environment,” said Amy Gowan, CEO and president of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-government nonprofit. “I do think people are having to make choices about their spending.”
Employment and wages, however, are steadily reaching pre-pandemic levels, Gowan said.
Between this year and last year, the county’s unemployment rate dropped nearly 1 percentage point. The jobless rate now stands at 1.7%, with about 5,000 unemployed residents, compared to 8,000 at this time last year. Gowan credits some of this to growth at Fort Meade, which has led to employment opportunities in the cyber industry and among other government contractors.
The county’s business sector is also growing at a faster rate this year with 217 new businesses or added locations to existing businesses so far this year compared to 176 at this time last year.
“The biggest issue we hear from employers when we talk to them ... is challenges with the talent pipeline and workforce — attraction and retention primarily,” Gowan said. “Wages are increasing but I don’t know that they’re necessarily commensurate in all industries with the cost of living right now.”