A new crime report released this week by the police department in Maryland’s Montgomery County, the largest county in the state, continues to show a troubling increase in sexual assaults. At the same time, murders, robberies, burglaries and opioid deaths have declined.
According to the report, the number of rapes reported in the county in 2018 was up nearly 28 percent and “has been steadily increasing over the last four years.”
There were 509 rapes reported in 2018, compared with 398 in 2017. Of the rapes reported, police said the victims did not know their attackers in 14 percent of the 2018 cases.
For comparison, 124 rapes were reported to police in 2009.
“The ongoing increase may be attributed to the attention surrounding high-profile cases and the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged more victims to come forward and report to police,” according to the report, which said:
“In 2018, 42.4% of victims who reported a rape offense reported the incident within 24 hours of it occurring. However, approximately 26% of the incidents reported to the MCPD in 2018 were reported more than a year after they occurred.”
Police previously said that the number of sexual assaults initially spiked in 2015 because the FBI changed the official definition of rape.
The report also notes an increase in identify thefts reported in 2018.
“The other crime on the rise is identity theft, which almost doubled from the 2017 levels, to 1,271 reports. That trend follows the national scene in which millions of people have had their identities stolen from large credit bureaus and other companies,” the report said. “At the same time, residents are becoming more educated about such incidents and are reporting them more frequently.”
Identity theft is categoried as a fraud offense, along with several other crimes. In the past, some of these fraud offenses have been been interchangeable but now police drill down to give a more accurate reflection of the specific crime that has occurred.
“When you look at the category of fraud offenses overall, there has been a 6.7% decrease, which includes the reduction in impersonation offenses and an increase in identity theft,” the report said.
But there were some positive developments highlighted in the report.
Overall crime was down last year across the county by about 3.5 percent, including a drop in murders.
There were 20 homicides in 2018 compared with 23 the year before.
“That figure is a continued improvement from the high of 30 in 2015 and close to our 10-year average,” the report said.
“Seven of the homicides (11 victims) were domestic-related, and an additional four were drug-related,” the report said.
There were no gang-related homicides in 2018, but police expressed concerns about certain groups. Police said MS-13 “continues to be the largest gang operating within Montgomery County, and is still responsible for more than one third of the gang-related assaults and weapons charges in the county.”
The opioid crisis did not hit the county quite as hard last year.
There were 177 total overdoses, which represents a 22 percent drop from the 227 overdoses in 2017. The number of deaths related to opioid use fell last year by 34 percent to 46 deaths.
ROBBERIES AND BURGLARIES
The total number of robberies declined more than 19 percent in the last year to 592. A decade ago, the county saw 992 robberies.
Burglaries declined, and police attribute the decline to residential alarm and security monitoring systems.
WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher contributed to this report.