There are those among you saying, “Germantown has a Town Center? Where is it?”
That question has been asked, more than once, on social media, and the answer is Yes, Germantown has a Town Center. It is on Century Boulevard, and it runs from the movie theater, past Germantown Library and BlackRock Center for the Arts, through to the shops in the Germantown Commons shopping center on Middlebrook Road. There is a fine arts theater; shops — both large and small — there are restaurants and eateries, and even a beautiful park. It has everything that a Town Center should have.
However, it also has something that a Town Center should not have. It has crime.
Recently, the stakes seemed to have been raised, as large groups of young people are gathering in that area of town and creating problems for merchants, residents and visitors. As the Germantown Pulse reported on March 29, there were 16 criminal incidents in the Town Center area between the hours of 1:00 pm and 9:30 pm between March 8 and March 26 — including one armed robbery, one auto theft, two strong-arm robberies, and four assaults.
According to DataMontgomery.com, since April 1 there have been more two strong-arm robberies, one assault, and three larcenies in the Town Center area. While not all of these calls can be attributed to teenagers gathering in the area, they are all well within the normal operating times for stores, theaters, and restaurants.
As a comparison, downtown Bethesda, in MCPD District 2 has reported seven assaults and one robbery in the Bethesda Row/Bethesda Ave./Elm Street/Woodmont Ave. commercial area since January 1, 2016, according to DataMontgomery.com. Germantown has had 11 assaults or robberies since just March 1, 2016. The problem is growing.
If we, as a community, don’t get a handle on the crime — if we can’t keep that part of town safe, if we continue to allow groups of youths to roam, assault, rob, and intimidate people in that part of our town — we will never have a type of Town Center that we all want.
We, as a community, will not be able to attract and retain the types of businesses that create a viable Town Center. Residents will not want to visit that area. People from other parts of Montgomery County will not want to visit that area. That area will slowly die, and become vacant and downtrodden. If thise does not stop, Germantown will never have the viable, successful, and revered type of Town Center, which our neighbors from Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Bethesda enjoy.
Crime in that area is not a new problem. The evidence of that is the creation of the Central Business District Unit by Commander David Gillespie of District Five in Germantown. The very fact that such a unit is required means that this is an ongoing situation.
As a result of the problem, Captain Gillespie has said that the 5th District has increased the number of officers in that area. MCPD will have seven-days-a-week coverage through this month, and beginning May 1 a second Central Business Unit will enable the Central Business District unit to have seven-day coverage of the area, according to Gillespie.
The Germantown Pulse applauds Commander Gillespie and thanks him and his officers for attempting to get a handle on this problem before it grows.
The Germantown Pulse also asks its readers and all residents of Germantown to think about our town as being “our town” and our Town Center as being “our Town Center.” That area of town is the living room of Germantown. It is where we welcome guests, where we entertain ourselves and those who visit us. Let us take pride in our Town Center, and show the rest of Montgomery County that we have pride in our town.
Merchants, if you see something happening, say something. Call MCPD — they want to know what is going on in the area. They want to help your business. They want you to succeed.
Parents, talk your kids about civic pride, about doing the right thing, and about helping our town become a better place. Everyone needs to help our Town Center succeed in being that vibrant place people want to visit.
Residents, let’s be proud of our Town Center. Let’s support our Town Center. If we want to attract the types of businesses we want to see in our Town Center, we need to support the businesses we already have. The MCPD is working hard to keep us all safe. Let’s be sure their efforts are not in vain.