By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — New numbers show a sharp increase in the most serious violent crimes in Baltimore County last year.

The biggest rise comes in aggravated assaults, those committed with firearms, were up 27 percent in 2017 — and with other dangerous weapons, up more than 40 percent.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz blames guns and opioids for the rise in serious violent crimes — up 14.5 percent in 2017. Numbers for the beginning of 2018 aren’t available yet.

“If I had to pick one thing, I’d say the opioid crisis is impacting the crime rates, but also we have this free flow of guns throughout our state that also are showing up in our crime statistic,” he said.

A string of residential burglaries sparked concern starting in October of last year. They didn’t stop until police caught the suspects in January. Total burglaries were down in 2017, and there were some high-profile incidents, including a dramatic seven-minute shootout on an MTA bus in Dundalk last June.

Last week, there was a shooting inside a Target store on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills that caused panic. No one has been arrested.

Kamenetz says the county is typically so safe, when there are incidents, they get more attention.

“If you commit a crime in Baltimore County, you’re most likely to get caught, get prosecuted and get punished. That’s the way we do things here in the county,” he said.

Kamenetz says he has confidence in the county’s Chief of Police, Terry Sheridan, who has been on the job for a little more than a year. As for the opioid crisis, Kamenetz mentioned there were 238 related deaths in the county last year.

Some other 2017 trends: arsons were up more than 25 percent, but motor vehicle theft was down 2 percent. Homicides remained the same at 35.

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