By Rachael Cardin

TOWSON, Md. — Baltimore County has seen an alarming number of homicides this year, including two mass shootings.

Though the year is not over yet, the Baltimore County Police Department acknowledged it has seen a significant increase. The agency attributes part of the elevated total to mental health issues.

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As of Oct. 4, the county has already seen 42 homicides. To put that in perspective, the county had a total of 33 homicides last year.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said the county remains a safe place to work, live and raise a family. But he said leaders are trying to place resources where they’re needed to keep residents safe.

“I’ll be watching the news and look and think, ‘Oh my God, Baltimore County. Really?” said city resident Cathy Morrell, who has family living in the county.

At this time last year, the county’s homicide total stood at 24, compared to 42 so far this year.

Authorities attribute part of the increased violence to situations involving mental health or domestic disputes.

“Twenty-four percent, almost a quarter of victims this year for homicide hade a behavioral health nexus associated with them,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, who noted that 17 of 42 victims were killed as a result of an argument or domestic dispute.

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The county has also seen two mass shootings — including one in Essex where police say a man killed two innocent bystanders inside a Royal Farms after killing his own family members.

“These incidents can’t be prevented by law enforcement alone,” said Olszewski. “Which is why we’re taking action to expand behavioral health supports, expand the mobile crisis  team and adding clinicians to our 911 center.”

Olszewski expects those changes to happen by the end of the year.

Residents and officials say the issue isn’t isolated to Baltimore County but rather a byproduct of the pandemic and economic uncertainty.

“This is not just a Baltimore County Police issue,” Chief Hyatt said. “It’s a societal issue that we need to have more resources dedicated to behavioral health.”

Added Morrell: “With the pandemic, with things happening now, people not having jobs, people are desperate and people will do almost anything.”

Other residents in the area spoke to WJZ and said they feel safe living in Baltimore County, saying they often see police patrolling neighborhoods day and night.

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For mental health concerns in the county, you’re encouraged to call 410-931-2214.

Rachael Cardin