Crime in the Germantown area increased 4.5 percent in 2016, which is higher than the percent increase in crime countywide, according the Montgomery County Police Department’s Annual Crime Report, which was released on Monday.
While crime has increased just 0.3 percent in the County, rapes, robberies, and burglaries were down 5.5 percent countywide. “We continue to have a very low rate of violent crime for a jurisdiction of our geographic size and population. In 2016, there were 15 homicides in our county. That number is slightly lower than our 10-year average and much lower than the 30 we experienced in 2015. Most homicides in Montgomery County are related to gang activity, illegal drug activity, or domestic violence. Detectives from our Special Investigations Division, specifically assigned to target criminal activity associated with gangs, are working with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to eliminate gang violence from our county,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger in the report.
Part I crimes, or violent crime in the Germantown area decreased 1.1 percent, while Part I countywide decreased 5.5 percent in 2016. 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.
Just one of the 15 homicides in Montgomery County in 2016 took place in District Five. There were five homicides in District Six – Gaithersburg, and two homicides in District Four – Wheaton. While, District Three- Silver Spring had three homicides and District One – Rockville and District Two- Bethesda had two homicides each.
“Although the number of homicides declined in 2016, the homicide trend remains consistent: the homicides in Montgomery County are generally domestic or gang-related. In 2016, there were four domestic-related homicides, three involving infant victims. The investigations have determined that at least two of the homicides were gang-related, a lower number than the eight in 2015, which had prompted an increased focus on the gang activity in Montgomery County throughout 2016,” according to the report.
In the 5th District, which includes Germantown, Boyds, Clarksburg, Damascus, and Laytonsville, the crime rate per capita was 4,709 crimes for every 100,000 people, which is lower than the Countywide crime rate of 4,929 per 100,000 people. District Two-Bethesda was the lowest in the county with 3702 and Silver Spring was the highest with 6849 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.
The Germantown District experienced a decrease in person crimes in 2016 compared to 2015. In 2016, persons crimes decreased 25.3 percent compared to 2015, and property crimes increased 1.2 percent. The increase in property crimes was primarily driven by increases in robberies which rose 63.8 percent and auto thefts — up a whopping — 118.9 percent. The district also experienced an increase in burglaries, up 24.9 percent. In 2016, there was a 31.5 percent decrease in the number of aggravated assaults.
In 2016 year, there were nearly 30,000 calls for service in the 5th District, an increase of almost nine percent since 2012 and 15.7 percent over 2015.
Reported burglaries in the 5th District increased 24.9 percent in 2016 to 256, of those 201 were residential burglaries (up 15.5 percent), 52 were commercial burglaries (up 92.6 percent), and just three were schools, one down from 2015.
According to the report, larceny in the Germantown District increased 7.6 percent in 2016. Within larceny is vehicle related thefts which increased 12.0 percent in Germantown. The report specifically says that in 2016 gang members have also been responsible for thefts from auto and motor vehicle theft in the 5th District – Germantown and 6th District – Gaithersburg.
“There was a significant increase, up 46.2 percent in the number of stolen autos in the 5th and 6th Districts. Ninety more vehicles were stolen from these two districts in 2016 than 2015, and many of those thefts have been attributed to gang activity,” according to the report. The 5th District reported 116 auto thefts and 632 vehicle-related thefts in 2016.
In January 2017, Sgt. M. Fergus Sugrue, the supervisor of the Montgomery County Police Department’s Auto Theft Unit spoke to Germantown Pulse about the recent uptick in auto thefts in the Germantown area.
“It is not an organized gang of car thieves,” said Sugrue. “These are not professional car thieves stealing cars for parts, or to be re-plating, or re-tagging the vehicles.”
It also isn’t a gang such in MS-13 or that ilk targeting the Germantown area, according to Sugrue. “I wouldn’t call them a gang. However, there is a Montgomery Village-based group which has been involved with some theft-from-auto and auto theft in the Germantown area. In the last year, I have noticed that they have become more active.”
That group calls themselves the Hittsquad. However, Sugrue said MCPD has made a lot of arrests over the years for auto theft and theft-from-auto of individuals connected to that group, including a number of arrests in the 5th District.
“Lock your car. Don’t leave belongings in cars. Don’t leave keys in cars. Take your keys. Makes sure your garage door is closed and locked,” he urged.
Narcotics arrests slightly increased by 0.6 percent in Germantown with officers making 487 arrests for possession in 2016, just three more that in 2015. Arrests for sale and manufacture of narcotics dropped 30.6 percent in 2016.
According to the report, “Although there was a slight decline in offenses involving controlled dangerous substances countywide in 2015, the number of incidents rose sharply in 2016. Specifically, the number of possession offenses increased 18.5 percent since 2015, and nearly 26 percent since 2014.”
“Like the rest of the country, the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise throughout the state of Maryland and in Montgomery County,” said the report. “The department recorded more than 200 opioid overdoses in 2016, resulting in 58 fatalities, an increase of 17.6 percent over 2015. The number of non-fatal overdoses increased by 175 percent to a total of 154, and may be attributed to Montgomery County’s naloxone program, which was used in more than 85 percent of those events.”
In 2016, the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center received 885,5631 calls for service, a 1.1 percent decrease, the first decline in total calls for service since 2011. Sixty-one percent of the calls received by the ECC were emergency calls, an average of 1,478 emergency calls per day. The number of dispatched calls for service increased in 2016 by 3.7 percent. Police officers countywide were dispatched to 233,748 calls, of which almost 12 percent were priority calls, those which require two or more officers and an expedited response, generally using lights and sirens.