Baltimore County Now
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.
Director of Public Safety Media & Communications
An email from one of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Community Resource officers, warning about the dangers of “Drano bombs,” has gone viral.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve fielded calls from news agencies, government offices and community leaders asking if the threat is “for real” and trying to gauge the extent of the problem. One of my neighbors called, asking if it’s safe to pick up a Pepsi bottle someone tossed in the front yard.
The answer is: yes, it’s probably safe. If the bottle looks like a normal bottle, go ahead and toss it in the trash.
But if it looks swollen or misshapen – as if it might burst – leave it alone and call 911.
Drano bombs, also called “bottle bombs,” are nothing new. Made from a few basic household items, they explode when gas generated by a chemical reaction inside the capped bottle builds to a breaking point. Our Arson & Bomb Unit says they’ve been around for years; typically, they’re constructed by juveniles fooling around with stuff they ought to leave alone.
Baltimore County is not experiencing a Drano bomb epidemic.
There were 13 Drano bomb cases in all of 2011. So far this year, police have documented six incidents involving the devices – two in the White Marsh precinct; one in the Franklin precinct; and, last week, three in the North Point precinct. Officers in the bomb squad say they typically see an uptick in these incidents at this time of year, just after school lets out.
The Franklin incident involved the arrest of a 13-year-old boy. One of the North Point incidents occurred in the Dundalk High gymnasium and involved arrest of an 18-year-old student. In a different North Point incident, one person suffered minor injuries.
The lack of serious injuries is good news, because Drano bombs can cause severe injury, especially if they’re placed in a mailbox or other container that can turn to shrapnel if the device goes off.
The catch-22 in all this is that efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of Drano bombs may entice some kids (or adults) into experimenting with them. Such would-be pranksters should know that the law puts Drano bombs in the same category as the pipe bombs terrorists use. Building, setting off or possessing a Drano bomb is a felony; conviction can land you in jail for up to 25 years and/or cost you up to $250,000 in fines.
Tomorrow, I will have the honor of speaking at the annual Baltimore County Police Memorial Ceremony. Every year, family, friends, and co-workers from across the County come together next to the memorial that overlooks Patriot Plaza in Towson to recognize the bravery and heroism of the Baltimore County Police Officers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
Recalling the bravery and dedication of these heroic men and women is always a humbling experience. I am sure that tomorrow will be no exception. However, what always strikes me the most about our fallen heroes is the nature of their bravery.
Like most of our jobs, our officers have their quiet days, but unlike the rest of us, the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department can never relax. Each of our officers knows that on even the most boring and routine day of their careers, the worst case scenario can be right around the corner. They know that at any minute they may be asked to put their own safety at risk to protect their community.
Having the courage, discipline, and commitment to handle such a stark reality is remarkable. Yet it’s just another day in the life for the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department. As Baltimore County Executive, and as a father raising a family here, I could not be more grateful that these officers are on the street each and everyday, prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our County safe.