Report shows crime down in county

March 21, 2001

Report shows crime down in county


PolicePhoto: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Washington County crimes statistics for 1999 reflected a 1.3 percent drop in crime compared to 1998, but authorities say the numbers don't tell the whole story.


Serious crime declined in the categories of rape, robbery and aggravated assault compared to 1998, but increased in five areas including murder, breaking and entering, arson, larceny and motor vehicle thefts, according to the Maryland State Police Uniform Crime Report released Monday.

"Any increase is bad, but as far as I'm concerned if rapes and armed robberies are down we're in good shape, said Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades.


"I still think Washington County is a safe place to live. I'm not too upset about it," said Mades.

Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith downplayed the crime figures, saying they "aren't the only thing we use to measure quality of life."

The numbers were released months late because of changes made in the way the statistics are compiled, according to a spokesperson with the office of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

There were four homicides in Washington County in 1999, up from three the previous year. Of the 1999 murders, three were in state prisons, and the fourth was in Hagerstown.

- On Jan. 2, inmate Lawson Noel, 24, was found dead at the Maryland Correctional Training Center. Inmates, Melvin Curtis Rust and Howard Berryman Jr. were convicted first-degree murder.

- On Jan. 8, Mervin James Isley died of head injuries at MCTC. His cellmate, Demetri Dixon, was sentenced to three years in connection with the death to be served concurrently with the 15-year term he was serving.

- Inmate Mark Reed, 40, was found dead in his cell at Roxbury Correctional Institution on Dec. 27, 1999. Additional information was unavailable.

- Desmar Bernard Artis, 18, died of a gunshot wound to his upper left arm on May 20, 1999 in Hagerstown.

Police charged Michael Dwayne Williams, 19, of Hagerstown with the slaying.

Although the crime report showed a brighter picture for the City of Hagerstown, Smith said "I try not to make a big deal about the numbers."

Crime was down in the city in nearly every category except arson.

Smith said the police department is working hard to fight serious crime while keeping on top of smaller issues that are important to residents.

Ordinances against cruising and loitering in front of bars are tools the police use to improve life in Hagerstown, he said.

Smith said he judges successes by the number of "for sale" signs he sees in the city.

"I stay focused on quality of life. Do people want to live in Hagerstown or move out?" he said.

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