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HOMICIDE STATS SHORT ON TRENDS
LUZERNE COUNTY'S FIGURES JUMPED IN 2001, BUT THE NUMBER REMAINS SO SMALL THAT CONCLUSIONS CANNOT BE DRAWN, AN EXPERT SAYS.
   

By MICHAEL McNARNEY mmcnarney@leader.net

Saturday, December 29, 2001     Page: 9A

The deaths of eight people have been ruled homicides in 2001 in Luzerne County, according to Times Leader files up from three such deaths in 2000.
    One researcher says the numbers involved are so small no larger trends can be gleaned from them.
    "You can't make anything out of a change like that," Alfred Blumstein, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "It's a (more than) 100 percent increase, but the numbers are too small to be meaningful."
    Homicides in a number of larger cities have jumped in 2001. In Phoenix and Boston, homicides have increased by at least 60 percent. Chicago is on track to have the most homicides in the country, with 648 as of Dec. 20, down slightly from the same period in 2000.
    Luzerne County averaged 5.6 murders from 1990 to 2000.
    The homicides reported in Luzerne County so far this year are:
    Elena Herring, 33, and her daughter Viktoria Ivanova, 6, were strangled in their home at 7 Stark St. in Wilkes-Barre and found on Dec. 7. No one has been charged in their deaths.
    Lucyna Dajema, 52, of Main Street in Edwardsville was found beaten to death in the woods near Courtright Avenue in Plains Township on Nov. 5. No one has been charged in her death.
    Juan Lopez, 37, was shot to death on North Wyoming Street in Hazleton as hundreds of football fans left nearby Harman-Geist Stadium the evening of Oct. 26. Lopez lived in North Locust Street in Hazleton. No one has been charged in his death.
    Carmine F. Constanzo, 22, was shot to death in his apartment at School House Apartments in White Haven on July 11. His cousin, Rancourt Woodell of Philadelphia, was charged with an open count of homicide.
    Mae Brown, age unknown, was stabbed to death at the Boulevard Townhomes apartment she shared with John Johnson, 43, her common-law husband, on June 29. Johnson awaits trial on a charge of criminal homicide. Police have said he twice confessed to the crime.
    Rose Higgins, 44, was beaten to death by her former boyfriend, Robert Protsman, 42 at an upstairs apartment at 38 E. Main St. in Plymouth on Easter Sunday, April 15. Protsman was convicted of first-degree murder on Sept. 12.
    Stacy Alan O'Berry, 25, was shot to death by his wife, Linda Cheryl O'Berry, 33, who then committed suicide in their home at 827 E. Front St. in Salem Township on Jan. 12.
    In addition, the Luzerne County Coroner's Office counts two deaths that police do not in their annual tallies. Charles Spacek Jr., 39, was shot to death by Rice Township police officer Shawn Zane Oct. 20 in a case ruled justifiable homicide. Keri Adam, 21, who police believe was killed in Berks County, was found in Newport Township on June 30. Adam's boyfriend has been charged in Berks County with criminal homicide in the case.
    The number of Luzerne County homicides have been declining from a high of 13 in 1990, bottoming out at two in 1996, according to Pennsylvania State Police records.
    Blumstein said homicides declined significantly in the 1990s, first in cities of more than 500,000 and then in the rest of the country.
    But those declines flattened out in 1999 in the big cities and then in the rest of the country in 2000, Blumstein said. Now that the steep drop in killings has stopped, he said, small fluctuations should be expected.
    "The numbers are too small," Blumstein said, adding that it takes more than two years for a trend to develop. "If you go to 15 (murders) next year, then that might be something to be concerned about."
    The Associated Press contributed to this story.
    Michael McNarney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7305.
   
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