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Robberies, violent crime down in 2008

January 04, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown Police Sgt. Paul Kifer described criminal activity in Hagerstown as "different" in 2008.

While he did not have all the numbers compiled as of Dec. 29, Kifer said it seemed robberies and violent street activity decreased in the past year.

Even at that, city police investigated three homicides in 2008, one of which remains unsolved, Kifer said.

Three homicides also were reported in 2007, with an additional case classified as a manslaughter, Kifer said.

The Washington County Sheriff's department reported no homicides in 2008, after logging four in 2007, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said last Tuesday.

Numbers of other serious crimes, including rapes and felonious assaults, also were down in 2008, Mullendore said.

The sheriff's department reported 24 rapes in 2007, and 12 in 2008. The 2008 numbers do not include the month of December, Mullendore said. In 2007, 162 felonious assaults were reported, while 111 were reported in 2008.

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For the sheriff's department, crime decreased by 6.4 percent from 2006 to 2007. Mullendore said he expected the crime rate to remain about the same from 2007 to 2008. Considering the county's population increase and the downturn in the economy, a static crime rate is good, he said.

The sheriff's department has been aggressive, concentrating on looking at trends, predicting where and when crimes occur and using its resources to try preventing them, Mullendore said.

In one of its more high-profile cases this year, the Washington County Sheriff's Department searched the home of former Maryland Del. Robert A. McKee on Jan. 31. After involvement by the FBI and other agencies, McKee in September pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison and must report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Jan. 12.

One of Hagerstown's recent high-profile murder cases also wrapped up in 2008, when Brandon Morris, 23, a former inmate at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of correctional officer Jeffery A. Wroten, 44, of Martinsburg, W.Va. Morris, who had faced the death penalty, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In Hagerstown, Kifer credited the decrease in violent crime to a change in the patrol officers' schedule, which allowed more officers to be on the streets during peak hours. While the number of robberies seemed to be going down compared to past years, the robbery rate then increased in the last two months of the year.

Hagerstown detectives were busy the last two months of the year, investigating two homicides that happened within eight days of each other, and an increasing number of robberies, Kifer said.

Both Kifer and Lt. Mark Knight of the Washington County Sheriff's Department identified an increase in thefts from vehicles as the biggest crime trend of 2008.

Thefts from purses, burglaries and the theft of copper in which the thieves broke into empty houses and cut copper wiring all increased in 2008, Kifer said.

While that trend could be a fluke, it could also be attributed to bad economic times, Kifer said.

In the county, a big trend was the theft of satellite radios and GPS devices from vehicles, Knight said.

People leave the items attached to their windshields and leave their vehicles parked in lots or neighborhoods where thieves see the radios or GPS devices, and break in to steal them, Knight said.

"Thieves will clean out those expensive things," Mullendore said.

The sheriff's department had several strings of burglary cases in 2008, Knight said. A 46-hour standoff in Hancock resulted in about 20 cases being closed.

Major crime in 2008



o On Feb. 12, 2008, former state trooper Brian Murphy was sentenced to a one-year jail term and three years of supervised probation after he was found guilty in December 2007 of possessing five pornographic images of a child younger than 18.

o On March 28, 2008, prosecutors filed a notice of intention to seek the death penalty if Douglas Wayne Pryor, 30, should be convicted of first-degree murder in the December 2007, shooting death of Smithsburg police officer Christopher Nicholson. Pryor's trial was moved to Montgomery County and the trial is set for May 2009.

o On April 19, the body of 22-year-old Carol Brown was found at her 457 Mitchell Ave. home. Her death has been ruled a homicide. The case is still open.

o On July 17, a man who police say was covered in blood tried to rob the Sheetz at 192 W. Main St. in Hancock.

o On Aug. 20, a 45-hour standoff between police and a man claiming to have a pregnant hostage in a Hancock motel begins.

o On the evening of Aug. 22, the standoff ends after police rush in and grab the man claiming to be holding a hostage. Police later allege that the "hostage" was complicit in the standoff and both were charged in the incident.

o On Oct. 24, Larry Boyce Jr. was shot and killed near his Summit Avenue home. Hagerstown resident Kevin Valentino Franklin, 38, was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and other charges in his death.

o On Oct. 31, the body of 47-year-old Billy Lee Black was found near a pool of blood in the backyard of a house at 210 James St. in Hagerstown's West End. Police said Black died of a stab wound.

o On Nov. 14, police said Alec Scott Eger, 19, of 15 Berner Ave., was charged with first-degree murder and felony murder in connection with Billy Lee Black's death.

o On Dec. 10, Billy Lee Black's 15-year-old daughter, Danielle Black, is charged as a juvenile with solicitation of first-degree murder in connection with her father's death.

o On Dec. 19, prosecutors charge Danielle Black as an adult. She faces a charge of solicitation of first-degree murder and, if convicted as an adult, could face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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