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Washington County crime rate drops

November 10, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Crime in Washington County the first six months of this year was down 7 percent compared to the same period last year, according to data released Oct. 31.

That statistic is based on numbers reported by law enforcement agencies for seven types of crimes tracked by the Maryland Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Those crimes are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, larceny theft and motor vehicle theft.

Violent crime was down 18 percent in Washington County, while property crime was down 5 percent.

Sgt. T.J. McKenrick of the Maryland State Police's Hagerstown barrack said the drop was positive news, but cautioned against reading too much into it.

"Those numbers can fluctuate from year to year," he said.

The statistics contradict the conventional wisdom that crime increases as the economy worsens, a pattern McKenrick said he has found to be true.

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"I think with people having less jobs, people do tend to try to find different ways to support themselves, and some of them obviously take the illegal route," McKenrick said.

There are a number of reasons the Uniform Crime Report statistics might not present a reliable picture of crime trends, McKenrick said. Some types of crime regularly go unreported unless an investigation is initiated by an officer, so the number of crimes reported depends heavily on the level of manpower during any given period, he said.

Rape statistics, a category that dropped 76 percent in Washington County from 21 in the first half of 2007 to five in the first half of 2008, are also often unreliable, McKenrick said. Those statistics depend heavily on how many victims come forward to report rapes, he said.

Statewide, total crime was up 3 percent from the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2008, according to the report.

In addition to the seven crime index categories, data also was released on arson and carjacking, which were not included in the total crime numbers. Arson increased 5 percent in Washington County, while carjacking dropped 100 percent, from one in the first half of 2007 to none in the first half of 2008, according to the report.

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