Baltimore County Now
Police Chief James Johnson
When we talk about crime statistics, we too often overlook clearance rates – the numbers that tell us whether a police agency is doing a good job of solving crime.
Here in Baltimore County, our clearance rates are excellent, well above the national average.
In fact, the Baltimore County Police Department’s clearance rates are so good that the U.S. Department of Justice has featured BCoPD in a September 2013 publication, “Homicide Process Mapping, Best Practices for Increasing Homicide Clearances.”
This 54-page study examined seven law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. with outstanding homicide clearance rates, seeking to understand what these agencies are doing right. BCoPD is one of these model agencies.
The introduction to the study says, “Although the national clearance rate average has continued to drop, some individual law enforcement agencies have excelled in clearing homicides, with clearance rates of 80 percent and higher. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) wanted to understand how some agencies were so successful in their homicide investigations.”
Researchers from the Bureau of Justice Assistance visited our Homicide Unit to examine our staffing, management, resources and investigative strategies. The publication will be used by other law enforcement agencies interested in improving their homicide investigations and clearance rates.
In law enforcement parlance, “clearance” means that a case has been solved because the offender has been identified and either arrested, has died or the homicide ruled justifiable.
The DOJ study focused on 2011, a year in which BCoPD’s 83.3 percent homicide clearance rate far exceeded the national average (62 percent).
More recently, in 2012, the national clearance rate for homicide in 2012 was 62.5 percent. Baltimore County’s clearance rate was 95.7 percent.
Our clearance rate for all Part I violent crime – the most serious crimes, including rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – has exceeded the national average going all the way back to 1995.
Here are the most recent 2012 clearance rates for Part I violent crimes other than homicide:
• Rape -- BCoPD, 69.7 percent; national average, 40.1 percent
• Robbery – BCoPD, 48.4 percent; national average, 28.1 percent
• Aggravated assault – BCoPD, 84.1 percent; national average, 55.8 percent
In 2012, our clearance rate for all Part I violent crime – homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – was 71.9 percent, or 25.1 percent higher than the national average.
The clearance rates for property crime typically are lower than for crimes against people because there often is no contact between the victim and the suspects; detectives may not even have a suspect description to use during their investigation. Even with those challenges, clearance rates for Part I property crimes such as burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft were 14.1 percent above the national average.
What accounts for our success in clearing crime? The DOJ study answers this question quite well: “A stronger professional fabric, the investment of time and effort to build trust within the community, a willingness to challenge the status quo in performing investigative tasks and” – this last point is especially important – “a professionally developed and trained investigative workforce.”
BCoPD has worked hard over the years to give investigators the best technological tools, including skilled crime analysis personnel, forensics and other support services.
But the ability to solve crime starts and ends with hiring, training, retraining and retaining quality investigators – academically advanced law enforcement officers who understand that building a quality investigation is like crafting a fine piece of furniture. It takes time, care, precision and persistence.
The credit for Baltimore County’s outstanding crime clearance rates rests largely with our detectives and patrol officers. The work our investigators are doing is as good as, if not better than, that of any agency in the nation. I hope that our citizens are as appreciative of this as I am.
Police Chief James Johnson
I’m pleased to announce some extremely good news for Baltimore County: Our Year End Crime Report for 2012 is finished, and these new statistics show that crime is down across Baltimore County.
It’s down overall, and it’s down in virtually every single category. Crime dropped against the previous five-year average – the best way to get an accurate picture of our crime trends. It also fell compared to 2011, in almost every category.
These are some of the best numbers I’ve seen in my career – even when you consider that crime has been falling over the past several years.
The report we released today contains official data, compiled in accordance with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system.
Part I violent crime, the most serious types of violent crime, fell by 11.1 percent against the previous five-year average. Every category of Part I violent crime dropped except rape, which increased by a single case. Criminal homicide, robbery and aggravated assault are all down.
Part I property crime – burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson, fell by 7.9 percent against the five-year average.
Part II crimes – everything from trespass to drug offenses – fell 5.2 percent.
Overall, crime in 2012 fell by 6.7 percent against the five-year average.
Looking at our 10 precincts, crime is down in every precinct except one. Some of these precinct level decreases are astounding. In White Marsh, for example, crime fell 14 percent against the five-year average. In Woodlawn, the drop is 11.6 percent.
In Towson, we saw an increase because of an increase in certain kinds of theft –shoplifting, theft from vehicle and theft from building. In the weeks and months to come, you will see law enforcement in Towson maintain an omnipresence and work even more closely with private security, both in the downtown area and elsewhere in the retail areas, so that we can bring these theft numbers down. We are adding three additional officers to patrol the entertainment district, an enhancement that will free up a car for patrol elsewhere in the precinct.
I cannot stress enough the significance of this crime report. You would have to go back 30 years to find crime rates as low as the ones we’re seeing now. Here’s another figure: Since I became Chief of Police, six years ago, the most serious kinds of violent crime have been reduced by 26.8 percent. Meanwhile, our case clearance rates continue to be far higher than the national averages.
This success doesn’t happen by accident. I thank everyone who has contributed – from the County Executive to our community partners to the many county agencies that support us every day. Most of all, I thank our officers, whose commitment, tenacity and expertise are the foundation of our achievements.
By Jim Johnson
Baltimore County Police Chief
The Baltimore County Police Department’s 2011 crime report, now available online here, takes a more comprehensive approach to crime trends than ever before.
In addition to providing year-to-year information, for the first time this report looks at five-year trends. I asked our Crime Analysis Unit to compare 2011 data with the previous five-year averages for each category of crime because I am convinced that we can’t understand whether we’re making progress in reducing crime simply by looking at the short term; we also need to look at how we’re doing over time.
A single year of crime data can be influenced significantly by weather, civil disturbances and the random – or even once-in-a-lifetime – event. We get a better picture of how we are doing when we take the longer view.
The 2011 report shows that our Police Department is fulfilling the mission of reducing crime – both in the short term and the long term.
Looking at crime numbers from 2006 to 2011, it becomes increasingly apparent that 2010 was an extremely unusual year – probably because of the February 2010 double blizzard that kept people inside for weeks. That year, every category of Part I violent and property crime fell well below levels seen from 2006 to 2009.
In 2011, total Part I violent crime dropped even more. In 2010, there were 4,305 incidents; in 2011, the number fell to 4,250. Part I property crime increased slightly.
The real news, however, is how 2011 crime levels compare to the previous five-year average. The crime totals in seven of the eight categories of Part I crime – the most serious crimes – were lower in 2011 than the previous five-year average for each category. (The exception was homicide, in which the total number of crimes equaled the five-year average.)
Looking at the five-year averages, we have reduced Part I violent crime by more than 14 percent; Part I property crime by nearly 8 percent and Part II crime by nearly 9 percent. In 2011, we drove down total crime below the previous five-year average by an impressive 9 percent.
In addition, Baltimore County Police continue to excel at solving crimes and getting criminals off the street. Year after year, our clearance rates for Part I crime exceed the national average as determined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program; for some crimes, our clearance rates almost double the national average. We expect this pattern to continue.
When we see crime dropping over time and criminals prosecuted for their actions, we know our law enforcement strategies are working. I encourage you to join me in thanking our more than 1,900 officers and hundreds of civilian professional staff for their hard work in making the County safer, and for continuing the fight against crime into 2012 and beyond.