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City's crime rate drops

November 18, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Although Maryland ranked in the top three in categories of robbery, murder and violent crime per 100,000 people in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2002, Hagerstown's serious crime rate compares favorably to cities in the state and beyond.

And while the crime rate in the eastern portion of the state appears to be on the rise, the serious crime rate in Hagerstown decreased.

There were 1,764 Part 1 crimes reported in Hagerstown, which had a listed population of 37,807 residents for 2002. Part I crimes include murder, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft. The rate per 100,000 residents for 2002 was 2,648.

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In 2001, there were 1,919 crimes reported, with a population of 37,232. The rate in 2001 was 2,724.8 per 100,000 residents.

Hagerstown's overall crime rate was lower than that of nearly every city and large municipality in the state, and ranks among the lowest nationally, the FBI report states.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said city residents are "very fortunate" to live in the western part of the state.

"The good news is we don't have a ton of crime," Smith said. "The bad news is, we have an addiction problem."

Although Hagerstown had a slight decrease in reports of aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft and sizable decreases in the amount of theft/larceny and property crimes, there were increases in other serious categories in 2002. The slight increases were in violent crime, murder, forcible rape and robbery.

Similarly, murder and robbery were on the rise in other parts of Maryland as well in 2002.

The FBI report, released on Oct. 27, states Maryland was first in the nation with a robbery rate of 245.8 occurrences per 100,000 people. The state was second in the country with a murder rate of 9.4 murders per 100,000 residents, and third in the country in violent crimes with 769.2 per 100,000.

Violent crime is composed of four categories according to the FBI study: Murder/non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

In most categories tracked by the FBI study, especially murder, the state's overall rate increased in part because of the high number of incidents in Prince George's and Montgomery counties and the city of Baltimore, according to the report. Baltimore's murder rate ranked third in U.S. cities behind Washington, D.C., and Detroit.

Smith said Hagerstown's largest number of law enforcement problems are not related to robbery and murder, but rather deal with drug activity, which was not a category factored in to the crime rate in the FBI study.

Smith said the low rate in the serious crimes tracked in the study is thanks to the "four-legged stool" - efforts from law enforcement, the State's Attorney's Office, local judges and the public. Smith said police, prosecutors and judges continue to "hold the line" against crime, while city residents are more forthcoming with information on incidents than people living in other parts of the state and country.

"That's hugely important to police," said Smith, who spent 25 years as an officer in Baltimore City.

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