Crime heats up in county, cools across Md.

March 25, 1997


Staff Writer

Local police officials point to increased drug activity as the main reason why crime inched up in Washington County in 1996 over the previous year, even though the statewide rate dropped by 3 percent, according to the Maryland State Police uniform crime report.

Five Western Maryland counties saw an average increase of 2.3 percent in eight serious crime categories. In Washington County, crimes in those categories increased by 2.8 percent jump. Frederick County, Md., saw a 2.9 percent jump.

In Washington County, robberies increased by 33.3 percent in 1996 over the previous year, while motor vehicle theft, rose 11 percent, breaking and entering increased by 9.9 percent and larceny theft rose by 3.6 percent, according to the report.


"Our area's prime because of drug activity, which leads to robberies, breaking and entering, thefts," said 1st Sgt. Doug Mullendore, of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Mullendore, who said he had not yet seen the crime report, said rural counties can expect to pay the price for increased enforcement efforts in large cities and densely populated parts of the state.

"The risk of getting caught in rural places, which is the western part of Maryland, is a lot less because there's a lot less enforcement," he said. "When (cities) step up their enforcement efforts, where do you think (criminals are) going to go?"

In addition to the eight major categories, Hagerstown Police Department officials said they have seen increases in minor offenses such as simple assault and destruction of property over the last few years.

Chief Dale Jones warned against placing too much emphasis on small changes in the crime rate in any given year. He said long-term trends are more important.

Those trends give cause for concern, Jones said. Hagerstown crime in the last five years has dipped and then gone back up, he said.

What's different is the types of crime and the kinds of criminals, Jones said. He said there are far more out-of-towners committing much more violent crimes.

"That's what's scary to us," he said.

A total of 307,251 crimes were reported statewide last year, down from 317,329 in 1995, according to figures compiled by the Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

The state category experiencing the biggest decrease was rape, which declined by 10 percent. Arson statistics, which are compiled differently than for other crimes, showed a 20 percent decline.

Maryland's statewide crime drop mirrors results from across the country.

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