Crime Down in Silver Spring District, More Police Still Needed
A surge in officers last summer helped reduce crime in East County, challenges remain, said the district commander.
More police officers in East Montgomery County last summer resulted in a slight decrease in crime, Patch reported last October. According to 3rd District Commander Donald Johnson, while crime numbers are still down, more resources are needed.
“The numbers aren’t finalized yet, [but] it’s safe to say the majority if not all of the crime categories have gone down in the IDA sector preliminarily,” he told Patch.
The IDA sector is comprised of the northern half of the 3rd District, stretching along the Route 29 corridor from White Oak to Burtonsville. The entire district, which includes downtown Silver Spring, was allotted 24 new officers last year as part of a small budget increase for the department. All but about six of those positions were filled when other positions within the police department were eliminated.
Johnson said it has been difficult to sustain the higher staffing levels since last July, with some officers moving out of the district because of promotions and retirements. The 3rd District was allotted 14 new officers from January’s police academy class to make up the difference, but more are needed.
The Silver Spring District isn’t the only area in need of additional manpower, police officials said. Police Chief J. Thomas Manger testified before the County Council’s public safety committee that the department is woefully understaffed. (At 1.19 sworn officers to every 1,000 residents, the county is far below the national average of 2.7 officers per every 1,000 residents.)
Manger said that the nature of policing an increasingly urban Montgomery County has to change, a sentiment that Commander Johnson agrees with.
“Every area you have to really look at closely and look at the population density,” he said. “For instance in downtown Silver Spring it was fairly obvious that you needed a bike team. You needed something in close proximity that you could assign to a concentrated area because everything is so concentrated down there.
“That strategy probably wouldn’t work in other areas like White Oak or Briggs Chaney,” Johnson continued. “It’d probably work for a detail, but it wouldn’t work for sustained enforcement because it’s just too wide of an area; you wouldn’t be able to get from Point A to Point B quickly enough.”
He favors a varied approach to policing East County’s crime hotspots that may include heavier patrol, a saturation of uniformed officers or circulating bike teams for small areas.
“Not one glove is going to fit every hand, but the key is having the additional resources, the additional officers to be able get some flexibility to do some different stuff,” Johnson said.
The police department was the only county agency to receive a bump in resources in this year’s budget. Heading into fiscal year 2013, Manger is asking for more than 250 officers over the next five years.
"We know you would like to have more officers in particular areas, and if money were no object we would all say yes without hesitation," Councilmember Phil Andrews, (D-Dist. 3), told Manger. "But we are not out of the woods yet budgetarily."