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The Charles County Sheriff’s Office released preliminary figures this week showing that crime in the county dropped more than 10 percent in 2012, the fourth consecutive year the local crime rate has gone down.

There were 3,921 reported Part I index crimes in Charles County last year, down from 4,366 in 2011, a decline of 10.2 percent. A total of 4,425 and 4,433 Part I crimes were reported in 2010 and 2009, respectively.

Overall, Part I crimes have decreased 23 percent in the past five years and 21 percent over the past decade.

Part I index offenses are those included in the Uniform Crime Report annually published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft.

Motor vehicle thefts dropped by 32.4 percent in Charles County last year. Burglaries were down 20.6 percent, while robberies fell by 14.7 percent and thefts decreased by 5.3 percent, according to department data.

However, homicides doubled in the county from three in 2011 to six in 2012. Detectives have made arrests in three of those murder cases, and an indictment is pending in another.

Rapes also increased from 26 in 2011 to 32 last year. In each case, the victims knew their alleged attackers, police said.

“Overall, I think we’ve done a good job, and we’re just going to stay the course,” Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) said.

“Relieved” during the year to see the county’s crime rate was trending down again, Coffey said he was “very pleased” by the final numbers, but “as happy as it made me, it’s no consolation for the people who have been the victim of a crime.”

Coffey credited the decrease in crime to the visibility of his officers, along with the frequent capture of “career criminals.”

“It’s something we’ve heard in law enforcement all our lives, that 10 percent of the criminals are committing 90 percent of the crime,” so when you catch those people, “it’s going to have an effect on your numbers,” Coffey said.

The sheriff said he took particular delight in the decline in both robberies and burglaries, the latter of which has been a departmental focus and “thorn in my side these last couple years,” he said.

“We’ve been keeping an eye on these foreclosed and vacant homes as much as possible” to deter thieves from targeting them and encouraging nearby residents to call if they see suspicious people lurking around vacant properties.

Despite the decrease, “I think our focus is going to continue to be on these burglaries. It seems we continue to have several of them every day,” Coffey said. “The single biggest help we can get is from the public. They call us regularly about certain suspicious situations, and sometimes it turns out to be a crime in progress.

“When you see something that doesn’t seem quite right, give us a call. We don’t mind; in fact, we like coming out and finding out it’s nothing.”

Coffey said his department “could definitely get some help from other areas” of law enforcement and cited specifically the county’s district court commissioners “who release people on recognizance or very low bond and we see people going right back to committing the same crimes.”

jnewman@somdnews.com