The number of property crimes reported in Prince William County, spurred in part by the Washington area's flourishing drug trade, increased by more than 52 percent in 1987 over the previous year, county police said.

Burglaries, larcenies and automobile thefts jumped sharply in 1987, according to crime statistics released yesterday to the Board of County Supervisors by Police Chief George T. Owens.

The number of drug arrests more than quadrupled, from 332 in 1986 to 1,616 last year. Owens said the increased number of drug arrests was in part the result of a new police policy of trying to arrest more buyers, rather than concentrating on dealers. But Owens acknowledged that the availability of drugs in Prince William has increased.

Increases in thefts and in the drug trade are related, Owens said. "Drugs are a fueling factor in larceny crimes," he said. "The purchase of drugs is expensive. The people who have drug habits can't get that type of money with a legitimate job. Larcenies and burglaries are sneak type crimes, which are impacted by the drug trade."

Owens said the county's residential and commercial growth also has contributed to increases in property crimes. Last year, the county's population rose to about 190,000, an increase of more than 6,000 residents from 1986.

While the number of property crimes jumped markedly, reported crimes against persons, homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults remained at relatively low levels, police said. The number of homicides dropped from nine in 1986 to three last year; aggravated assaults fell from 204 in 1986 to 173 last year. However, the number of reported rapes and attempted rapes jumped to 44 from 24, and the number of robberies increased to 101 from 72 in 1986.

------------REPORTED CRIME----------------

---------PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY------------

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Offense............1986 ..............1987

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Assaults............204 ...............173

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Rapes,

Attempted Rapes......24 ................44

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Burglaries........1,028 .............1,302

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Car Thefts..........275 ...............505

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Larcenies.........3,013 .............4,791

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Homicides.............9 .................3

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Robberies............72 ...............101

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Total Crimes

Reported..........4,625 .............6,919

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Drug Arrests........332 .............1,616

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SOURCE: Prince William County Police Department.