Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger spoke in Bethesda last night about the county’s downward crime trend, upcoming redistricting and ongoing budget struggles that he said make his department one of the leanest in the nation.
Manger made a presentation and answered questions at a monthly meeting Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board last night.
Despite the loss of almost 100 officers during a three-year span from 2007-2009 because of county budget cuts, Manger said the numbers show most crimes, excluding robberies in the Bethesda area, are trending downward over the last 10 years.
Robberies and thefts from cars are both up this year compared to this time in 2011, according to Bethesda Police District statistics released last week.
Manger mentioned a particular string of burglaries police believe are related in Potomac, which on Jan. 2 will become part of the Bethesda police district as part of the department’s redistricting effort.
Burglars there appear to be targeting Asian families. Manger said police have seen about half a dozen break-ins in high-end houses occupied by Asians where burglars take primarily jewelry, regardless of whether those homes have alarm systems.
The redistricting effort is meant to better organize the distribution of officers. Manger said the major reason for the reshuffling was the difficulty for officers in the Rockville Police District to get out to Poolesville in rural northwestern Montgomery County.
Bethesda District Commander Capt. David Falcinelli, who also attended the meeting, said the Bethesda District shift shouldn’t be too burdensome, as Potomac actually belonged to the Bethesda District before.
Manger showed crime maps that showed what many Bethesda residents have become accustomed to: The county’s high-crime areas are not in Bethesda. Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and Germantown have the most incidents of crime, which Manger said is consistent with the trend of densely populated areas with more poverty that fuels crime.
One of the biggest concerns in Bethesda, besides car break-ins, is pedestrian and car collisions. Manger said those numbers have dropped as well, though he admitted it’s difficult to enforce traffic laws with cyclists, of which there might be an increased number with next year’s introduction of Capital Bikeshare.
Manger also explained his three-year staffing plan, requested by County Executive Isiah Leggett, to recoup the officers he lost during budget cuts.
Last year, the department added 43 full-time officers. Manger is requesting 45 to 50 more for next year’s budget.
Right now, the county has 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents (including officers from municipalities in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park and Chevy Chase Village). The national average is 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents.