County leaders gather to deal with rising local gang violence
ROCKVILLE – State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy said the County’s gang problem is on the rise.
“When you see the recent rise in crime at the level and the extent to which you see it, new strategies are called for, new approaches are called for when you see this,” McCarthy said.
On Tuesday, four police chiefs, the County’s Sheriff and the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools signed a memorandum of understanding to help facilitate cooperation in combating the County’s rising gang problem.
The memorandum is an agreement between police and schools to collaborate with one another to stem the tide of rising gang crimes by sharing information. In addition, the memorandum states that police and staff from the state’s attorney’s office will assist in MCPS’ ongoing gang awareness training.
The event was an opportunity for County leaders to make a public stand against the increase in gang-related murders as of late. At the signing, McCarthy along with Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger spoke about the way they plan to use the $843,693 in additional funding that the County Council approved on Oct. 3 to fight rising gang crimes.
Specifically, the Council allocated $596,920 to fund six new positions at Montgomery County Police: a sergeant, three detectives and two civilian gang analysts. In addition, the State’s Attorney Office will receive $246,773 to hire three new assistant state’s attorneys to prosecute gang-related crimes. The three additional state’s attorneys that will make up the new gang unit at the State’s Attorney’s Office will monitor gang activity, translate material from Spanish into English, help interview witnesses and assist in preparing legal documents.
Manger said the money for the additional detectives will assist in prosecution of gang members, which will free up other police officers to follow gang activity out on the street.
“We don’t have to have a detective who should be out on the street, sitting in an office doing analytical work,” Manger said.
The signing was also an opportunity for Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith to announce that MCPS will now train teachers in how to spot and deal with students who are gang members in school. Smith said teachers will be trained to be able to identify behaviors that may single out students as gang members and alert school administrators accordingly.
“What I hear from my counterparts is while it isn’t necessarily growing in the school system, it’s growing in the County and our students live in the County, so we have to be aware and proactive,” Smith said.
While school guidance counselors were already trained to recognize gang activity and to report it, the training has been expanded to include teachers. Smith said in August and September, 2,300 MCPS employees completed a comprehensive training program that included gang awareness along with child abuse awareness.
In addition to Manger, Smith and McCarthy, Montgomery County Sherriff Darren Popkin, Gaithersburg Police Chief Mark Sroka, Acting Rockville Police Chief Bob Rappoport and Acting Takoma Park Police Chief Dan Frishkorn signed the memorandum Tuesday.
The overall number of homicides was halved from 30 in 2015 to 15 in 2016. In those two years, 18 of the 45 homicides were gang-related. According to McCarthy, there have been 20 gang-related homicides over the past two years.