Cecil County Crime Stats Drop in 2015, but Drug OD Deaths Still High in 2016
Major crimes in Cecil County declined significantly in 2015, according to new data submitted to state and federal authorities, but the number of murders increased and separate health reports showed drug overdose deaths continued to be a serious problem in the county for most of 2016.
The Maryland State Police compiled data from its own operations as well as law enforcement at the county and town levels to produce the annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) that provides the most complete picture of criminal activity and law enforcement efforts statewide. The report, covering the 2015 calendar year, was submitted to Gov. Hogan’s office in mid-December 2016.
Overall, the crime rate in Cecil County fell by 10.7 percent in 2015, in comparison with 2014. But murders numbered 9, in comparison with 4 in 2014. The 2015 figures were also well above a five-year average of 5 murders per year.
Motor vehicle theft showed a sharp increase—33.7 percent—with 123 incidents reported in 2015. But most other categories of serious crimes showed modest to significant declines, according to the new report. Aggravated assaults declined by over 31 percent; reported rape cases dropped by 18.4 percent; robberies declined by 14.9 percent; larceny/theft incidents dropped by 9.9 percent; and breaking and entering incidents declined by 7.3 percent. Reported domestic violence incidents also declined, from 563 cases in 2014 to 445 in 2015.
Local law enforcement officials are often cautious about drawing conclusions from the UCR data because the federally-set standards and definitions used in the reports set narrow categories that may not give a complete picture of local crime issues, especially lesser and ‘quality of life’ offenses that may make local residents uneasy and concerned but are not reflected in the UCR reports.
The new report reflects county-wide crime statistics from all law enforcement agencies operating in Cecil County, but the overall sharp drop in crime coincides with the first full year in office for Cecil County Sheriff Scott Adams, who was elected Sheriff in November, 2014 and sworn into office about a month later.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Adams said of the new report in an interview with CECIL TIMES.
In particular, the new report shows a heightened emphasis in anti-drug efforts on distributors and manufacturers of illegal narcotics, instead of drug users. “That’s been our focus,” Adams noted. The report shows a 39.4 percent increase in 2015 in arrests for suspects in drug-dealing cases, while drug possession arrests dropped 8.8 percent.
Adams, who also oversees the Cecil County Detention Center, strongly advocated for, and received, the second-ever in the state special grant to launch a new program to wean incarcerated drug users from their dependency through a once-a-month injection of a new drug, Vivitrol, that blocks the effects of heroin and related opiates. Combined with enhanced counseling programs at the jail and post-release, that initiative seeks to return ex-offenders to the community drug-free and with support for their recovery.
In the county’s anti-drug law enforcement efforts, Adams noted that his agency now employs an in-house “heroin coordinator,” using another state grant his department applied for and received, to co-ordinate law enforcement information geographically within the county and among police agencies to identify hotspots of drug activity in real-time. And his agency has also used new grants to map overall crime incidents to identify areas of the county that are developing new crime issues so as to re-deploy resources.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued new statistics recently on drug overdose deaths for the first three-quarters of 2016—from 1/1/16 through 9/30/16—showing Cecil County remains on track for record drug overdose fatalities. Heroin remains a leading cause of drug deaths and heroin laced with the deadly drug fentanyl constitutes a rising share of the fatalities.
In Cecil County, there were 22 drug overdose deaths in the first 9 months of 2016, the same number during the comparable period in 2015, which ended up being a record fatality year with 32 drug deaths. But the deadly drug Fentanyl was an increasing threat locally, with 6 deaths related to use of that drug, in comparison with 4 fatalities in the comparable period in 2015.
Heroin overdose deaths accounted for 12 fatalities for the first 9 months of 2016, according to the state report. Heroin continues to be the leading cause of drug overdose deaths locally, despite an active and aggressive campaign among first responders and the recovery community to train and equip officials and families with doses of Narcan, a nasal-mist drug that can reverse the effects of a potentially lethal drug overdose.