By Kevin O’Rourke
Crime in the Germantown area increased 6.3 percent in 2014, which is the exact same percent increase in crime countywide, according the Montgomery County Police Department’s Annual Crime Report.
While crime has increased 6.3 percent in the County, rapes, robberies, and burglaries are down significantly countywide. “Even with the overall increase, Montgomery County has experienced the second-lowest crime rate in the past 10 years,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger in the report.
The total number of offenses in 2014 was 24.5 percent lower than in 2010, and 23.9 percent lower than in 2005, according to the report. The crime rate per capita for Montgomery County was 5,046 crimes for every 100,000 people. “The fact is that Montgomery County is a very safe community,” said the report.
Part I crimes, or violent crime in the Germantown area increased 13.1 percent, while Part I countywide increased 10.6 percent in 2014. Part I crimes as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting, included homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.
Five of the 19 homicides in Montgomery County in 2014 took place in District Five. There were six homicides in District Six – Gaithersburg, and four homicides in District Four – Wheaton. While, District Three- Silver Spring had two homicides and District One – Rockville and District Two- Bethesda had one homicide each. In 2013, there were just eight homicides in the County, however in 2012 the county tallied 15 homicides.
“One of the most notable increases is the number of homicides,” said Manger in the Crime Report. “While these incidents increased over 100 percent, the total number of homicides is less than 20, which is very low for a jurisdiction of our size. We conducted an in-depth analysis of the homicides, and as has historically been the case, most of our homicides involved either family members or acquaintances. In addition, all but one of these cases has been solved.”
“If you look at the numbers,” said District Five-Germantown Commander David Gillespie, “in the last two years we’ve had six homicides, almost all of those are domestic related. In all of them the victim knew the suspect and arrests were made in four of them.” It should be noted that these statistics do not include the victims of Hoggle case, which is still under investigation.
In District Five, which includes Germantown, Clarksburg, Damascus, and Laytonsville, the crime rate per capita was 4,662.4 per 100,000 people, which is lower than the Countywide crime rate (5,097.7 per 100,000 people). District Two-Bethesda was the lowest in the county with 4,012.4 and Silver Spring was the highest with 7,388.0 per 100,000.
When it comes to the violent crimes of rape, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault the Germantown area violent crime rate per capita or 2014 was 152 per 100,000 which lower than the countywide violent crime rate per capita of 174 per 100,000. As a comparison, using 2013 numbers (the 2014 numbers have not been released) the national violent crime rate per capita was 368 per 100,000. On a statewide level, (also using 2013 figures) the violent crime rate per capita is 468 per 100,000.
According to the MCP Crime Report, in the Fifth District the increase in Part I offenses was primarily a result of more aggravated assaults, up 68.9 percent, and larcenies, up 19.8 percent. While the largest reduction in Part I offenses were the crimes of robbery, down 22.5 percent and auto theft, which dropped 29.1 percent.
Gillespie attributes the drastic rise in aggravated assaults to changes in the way they are reported to the FBI. “In the past we aggravated assaults were usually assaults with a weapon, a gun or a knife, or one that caused great bodily injury. This year the definition changed to include the act of choking without resulting injuries,” said Gillespie. “So anytime there is any kind of choking, those are not considered aggravated assaults. If you combine aggravated assaults and minor assaults the difference is just 1.6 percent increase.”
Gillespie said one of the main reasons burglaries were down in the Germantown area was in partly due to the high number of burglaries which occurred in 2013, and partly due to a decrease in easy targets.
“We’ve had fewer of the trend commercial burglaries because we did make some arrests of people who were perpetrating these crimes. In other years we’ve had burglaries in either vacant homes or homes under construction where people will go in a steal the copper pipes or the appliances, and there were less vacant homes last year.”
“Another reason the burglary numbers are down is because in 2013 we had a spike in burglaries because we had a group of people who were doing burglaries and we have arrested those guys. The numbers are down because those guys are out of business. We stopped some trends that occurred. We stopped the group of kids that were doing the crime in the previous year.”
According to the report, larceny in the Germantown District increased 19.8 percent in 2014. Within larceny is vehicle related thefts which increased 20.4 percent in Germantown. “The biggest crime that we have is people getting into unlocked car doors and taking property,” said Gillespie.
Chief Manger echoed those statements in the report, “Thefts from autos continue to be the most prevalent crime in Montgomery County. In fact 38 percent of all larcenies reported in the Montgomery County were from residents’ vehicles. Unlocked vehicles continue to be easy targets for opportunistic thieves.”
Gillespie said, “Theft from autos has been on the rise in the Germantown District. However, I am happy to tell you that we have made 10 arrests over the last six weeks of people who have been charged with theft-from-auto crimes. In those cases we have received assistance from the community which has been instrumental in helping us make these apprehensions and follow up cases even further. We are fortunate that we have a lot of people that report crime and give good and timely information of when crimes occur so that we are able to respond out right away.”
"Some of these arrests are the result of good investigative work.” According to Gillespie, the District has recently implemented a new patrol investigations unit which is responsible for investigating thefts from autos. “Since we started that unit in the early January 2015, it has been fantastic, because they are able to follow up on these crimes. So if somebody steals a credit card out of a car and uses it in local location, this unit will follow up on it and take photos and identify people, as well as do fingerprints. They work with other investigators to make determinations as to who is selling stolen property.
The other contributing factor to the rise in larceny in Germantown, is a 57.1 percent increase what the department calls “All Other” theft, which Gillespie says are stolen cell phones and devices. “We get a ton of cell phone thefts among juveniles,” said Gillespie.
Narcotics arrests were also up 16.7 percent in Germantown, thanks in large part to the implementation of the District Community Action Team in May of 2014. Arrests for sale and manufacture of narcotics increased 43.7 percent in 2014. Arrests for possession of narcotics increased 13.6 percent.
“In May we added the DCAT team,” said Gillespie, “and they have been proactive in patrolling the community and I think that they’ve had an impact. And we have also added the Central Business Unit Team on December 28. It is more officers on the street and a better deterrent. Sometimes it is just good investigative work that leads to locking people up which contributes to prevention. And sometimes it is just good proactive police work.”