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Statistics show crime rate 'flatlined' between 2004 and 2005

December 30, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The number of armed robberies in Hagerstown went up slightly in 2005, but, overall, the crime rate has remained the same, Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Paul Kifer said.

The number of homicides in Washington County this year went down from five last year, including one in which no one was charged, to four this year.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department has not filed charges in connection with the Oct. 21, 2004, shooting death of Ali Aubae Robinson, 28, at his Halfway residence.

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In Hagerstown, Part I crimes, an FBI label for reported felony crimes, were up .77 percent in the city from November 2004 to November 2005, Kifer said.

The sheriff's department is still searching for the man who snatched 86-year-old Winnie Gelvin's purse and knocked her to the ground Jan. 4 at her 109 Hebb Road home. Gelvin died Jan. 13 as a result of her injuries, prompting police to charge her death as homicide.

The department gained a conviction for the second homicide it investigated this year. In October, Ricky Rinaldo Stallings Jr., 24, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, plus 30 years. A Circuit Court jury had convicted him of first-degree murder in the Feb. 8 shooting death of 34-year-old Mary Elizabeth Williams and the attempted second-degree murder of her boyfriend, Christopher Hobart.

The first homicide Hagerstown Police investigated this year has been prosecuted, but Boni Facio Aramburo, who was convicted on Dec. 7 by a Circuit Court jury of voluntary manslaughter in the April 5 shooting death of Terrance "T.J." Johnson, hasn't been sentenced.

The second homicide this year in Hagerstown happened shortly after Aramburo's conviction. On Dec. 10, Eliezer Rodriguez, 22, of 600 N. Prospect St., was stabbed in the abdomen during a fight in the 100 block of West North Street and later died at Washington County Hospital.

Charges, including first-degree murder, were forwarded on Dec. 20 to Circuit Court against 14-year-old Irving Atillo Benitez, who is charged as an adult in Rodriguez's death.

Benitez's co-defendant, Angel Teodoro Villatoro, 35, hasn't had his charges - which include first-degree murder - heard in District Court. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10, a District Court clerk said.

Kifer said there were 33 robberies in which a firearm was used in 2004, while there were 42 robberies in which a firearm was used this year.

Four men were arrested in Spotsylvania County, Va., this month in connection with a series of robberies from ATMs in Maryland and other states. Police in Hagerstown and Washington County are waiting to see if those men are linked to a robbery on Wesel Boulevard and one on Jefferson Boulevard in Smithsburg.

Kifer said police send patrols to areas where rashes of such robberies occur, to look for suspicious behavior. He said the department has worked harder to get more information to the media about crimes, prompting more community involvement. Citizens on Patrol, a group that patrols the streets on certain nights, has helped get the word out about the job that police face, he said.

The crime rate stayed 'fairly flatlined" from 2004 to 2005, Kifer said, but police were alarmed by a few more robberies involving weapons.

Kifer said nearly 10,000 crimes were reported this year, the highest the department has recorded. He added, however, that the figures could be attributed to officers writing more reports or other reasons. "It's not necessarily a crime increase," he said.

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