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County says major decrease in crime

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Published on: Thursday, February 27, 2014

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – On the last day people could file for candidacy in the 2014 gubernatorial election, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced a 26 percent decrease in crime during his tenure as the county’s top official, but said residents should not be expecting a decrease in the police budget anytime soon.

Leggett, joined by Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, State’s Attorney John McCarthy, and County Council President Craig Rice, made the announcement at a news conference at the County Executive Office Building where he thanked the police department for making the county a safer place to live.

“Chief Manger, his command staff and the men and women of the department have worked harder, smarter and more creatively to produce these numbers and to better protect the lives and property of the residents of Montgomery County,” Leggett said.

According to the county, not only did overall crime decrease by 26 percent but serious crime dropped by 33 percent—more than twice the decrease in crime nationally during the same period of time.

Leggett, who is running for reelection in this year’s gubernatorial election, said the decrease in crime is not an accident. Rather, it is the result of making public safety a county priority.

“Between 2007 and 2014 our tax-supported county government program budget went up 12 percent over seven years,” Leggett said, “but our spending for the police department more than doubled that—nearly 28 percent.”

All crime decreased from 2012 to 2013, except rape, which increased by 27.5 percent.

McCarthy said the increase in rape is partially attributable to investigations where the victim and suspect were intimate partners going through the new Family Justice Center.  The investigations were conducted with a high level of victim support, he said, so more victims felt confident enough to report crimes.

Despite a decrease in crime, Leggett said he is “certain there will be an increase.” He will be releasing his recommended police budget in March.

The police officers, detectives and supervisors are the people who deserve all the credit for the decrease in crime, Manger said. He also credited Leggett for making a comprehensive effort to address root causes of crime by making investments in the county’s school system and in economic development.

The biggest initiative to lower crime, Manger said, are the sector plans the police department uses to address regions with elevated crime rates.

“Years ago we identified a very specific trend about where crime occurs in Montgomery County. In some areas there is little to no crime and in other areas you’ll see the crime rate is much higher than we want it to be,” Manger said. “We identified those areas that have the highest crime rates and we developed a strategy tailored to those specific areas. What is right for some areas like White Oak and Silver Spring is not the same as what we want to accomplish in Wheaton. Germantown is not the same as Gaithersburg.”

The cornerstone of the initiative, Manger said, is to increase the number of officers working in higher-crime areas. The police department uses what are called “police community action teams” that are dispatched to areas where the police see spikes in crime. The team may stay in an area for a week, two weeks or longer—however long is needed to address the crimes in the area.

Originally the PCAT team was county-wide, but Manger said the department is now putting one in each district.

Manger acknowledged civil rights concerns, but said all complaints are thoroughly investigated.

“There is no trend or indication whatsoever that these kinds of complaints are problematic within this police department,” Manger said.

County Council President Craig Rice said the announcement is great for the county because it shows residents county officials are engaging and listening to the needs of their constituents.

“This is an example of the county executive, the county council and your police department working together hand in hand to make sure this community is well protected and well served,” Rice said. “This is a great example of when we work collaboratively together we can do great things.”

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