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Baltimore County News

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Keyword: crime

image of man peeking through keyholeBaltimore County Police Sergeant Pat Stonko, Burglary Unit

The blog title sums up what some criminals think about this time of year. There are some things to think about whether you’re on your way to the ocean or staying at home.


  • Burglars are opportunists and look for the easiest way in. Unlocked doors and windows make life simple for a burglar. If you can, resist the temptation to leave windows ajar at night, or when you go out during the day when the weather gets hot. It’s easy to pry a window open if given a little wiggle room at the bottom of the window.
  • You can’t always stop burglars, but you can deter them by making it difficult to enter your home.
  • Sheds and garages are targeted more in the summer months. They often have bicycles and lawn equipment inside.  Heavy duty locks on sheds slow down a criminal and may deter him altogether. 
  • Have a family member or trusted neighbor pick up your mail and all other deliveries. Piles of mail in the mailbox are clues to your absence.
  • Going away? The world can wait to see your vacation pictures until you get home.
  • Share memorable moments with family and friends through texts or emails. Steer clear of social media when you’re on the road.
  • Use location spotters on smart phones with caution. The GPS tells your friends and family where you are. The spotter is also a helpful tool for a burglar. He can estimate how long he has to steal your valuables before you arrive home.
  • There are people we inadvertently tell that we are we going away:  the bank cashier, the cashier at the store, the person at the doctor’s office. We are so excited at the prospect of a vacation, we need to share it. Be careful sharing your plans with people you don’t know.
  • If possible, check your credit cards and bank cards while you’re away. This will help you guard against credit card or identity theft while you’re having fun.
  • Check your smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors before you leave for vacation or that quick, one day get-away. If a fire breaks out, the alarm could save your home and maybe a neighbor’s home as well.

Have a nice summer, have a great vacation and when driving, be sure to buckle up.

image of a lock on a cell phoneBaltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger

As much as our smart phones and GPS gadgets make life easier for all of us, they also can be a great resource for thieves and other criminals to help them steal from us. Below are some scams which are making the rounds. Don’t become a victim. Read on and protect yourself and your family.


family went on vacation and left their car in the long-term parking lot at the airport. Someone broke into the car. Using the information on the car’s registration, kept in the glove compartment, the thieves drove to the people’s home and burglarized it.

What should you do?

If you are going to leave your car in long-term parking, do not leave the registration/insurance cards or your remote garage door opener in the car.


Someone had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Things stolen from the car included a garage door opener, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard.  When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house and then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game so they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and how much time they had to clean out the house.

What Should You Do?

DON’T put your home address in the GPS!  Put a nearby location (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS is stolen.


A woman’s handbag, containing her cell phone, credit cards, wallet, etc., was stolen.  Twenty minutes later when she called her husband from a pay phone telling him what had happened, he said, “I received your text asking about our PIN number and I replied a little while ago.”  When they rushed to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn.  The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text ‘hubby’ in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. 

What Should You Do?

Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list.  Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Dad, Mom, etc. And very importantly, when sensitive information is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back.  Or just don’t text sensitive information. Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet ‘family and friends who text you.

BCPD logoPolice 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.


Revised April 6, 2016