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The crime rate in Harford County dipped by 10 percent in the first six months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008 — mirroring a statewide drop in reports of serious offenses — and Sheriff L. Jesse Bane said recently he hopes to see that trend continue.

“I’m hoping we can continue to see the numbers decreasing,” Bane said, adding, “the trend seems to be that the crime rate is dropping.”

The Maryland Uniform Crime Reporting Program issued a release in November indicating serious crimes in Harford County had declined, based on statistics provided by the various law enforcement agencies patrolling the county.

Bane said that in his 37 years with the sheriff’s office — the last three as the elected sheriff — he has never before seen such a significant drop in a six-month period.

Bane was pleasantly surprised by the statistics from the first six months of 2009, and while he cautioned there could always be an increase, he feels the numbers are a good indicator for the second half of the year.

“You have to, first of all, give credit to the men and women out on the streets and investigating the crimes,” Bane said.

He also attributed the decrease to changes in policing techniques used by the sheriff’s office and other agencies across the county.

“You don’t get those kinds of drops in numbers by just continuing to police the way you’ve always policed,” he said.

The sheriff’s office has an initiative in place that focuses on violent offenders.

“A small number of individuals commit crimes, and when you put them in jail you affect crime rates,” Bane said, adding “I think tactics in hitting drug dealers in Harford County and hitting them hard has made a difference.”

Lt. Charles Moore, commander of the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack at Benson, was also pleased with the numbers.

Like Bane, Moore credited the men and women of the state police as a major reason for a decrease in crime during 2009.

“I’d like to think that it’s because of the aggressive nature of the way we handle law enforcement here,” Moore said.

Moore said in his experience the more time elapses after a crime, the harder it becomes to solve that crime. He said investigators and troopers with the Bel Air Barrack have done an excellent job following leads and bringing cases to a quick close, especially during the past few months.

“I think we’ve set an example for that in some of the crimes we’ve solved in the past four or five months,” Moore said.

The quick turnaround means those individuals can’t go back out and commit more crimes, Moore said.

“It’s not surprising, when you work hard to close things like that you have positive results,” Moore said.

He said that agencies working together is also a large part of successfully managing crime. Moore specifically cited instances when the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and the state police have worked closely together to solve crimes.

Moore said he believes this kind of teamwork is essential and something Harford County is accomplishing.

“When you get more people working on things the better chance you have,” Moore said of solving crimes.

Sgt. Fred Budnick, of the Aberdeen Police Department, said he was not sure of the numbers in the Aberdeen city limits.

“I think that would probably be consistent with what we’re seeing here,” Budnick said.

In Bel Air, Chief Leo Matrangola was surprised by the numbers and echoed the sentiment that the town was seeing results similar to those throughout the county.

“We’re seeing a substantial decrease here,” Matrangola said.

Matrangola also referenced that a small number of people commit a majority of crimes and said keeping close tabs on those on parole and probation is one thing the town does to affect crime rates.

“We’ve had a remarkable decrease in repeat offenders,” he said.

Matrangola feels, as does Bane, that spotting crime trends and effectively responding to those trends through CountyStat is a major contributor to decreasing crime in Harford County. CountyStat is a program used to track and organize crime statistics across the county.

Increased use of available technology by businesses and police is another way Matrangola feels Bel Air and the county affect crime rates for the better.

He added that he believes a saturation police presence is an effective way to deter criminals.

Matrangola said crime in Bel Air had shown a significant decrease during not just the first six months, but during the first three quarters of 2009 when compared to the same period in 2008.

“I’m thinking our trend is going to hold up,” Matrangola said.

He also credited the community with the decline.

“In Bel Air, I always point out community is a factor,” Matrangola said.

Matrangola said concerned citizens report suspicious activity every day and this is a testament to the strength of the community and a refusal to tolerate crime.

Bane said the decrease is a testament to the county as a whole.

“It speaks a lot for Harford County,” Bane said.

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