On Tuesday the County Council agreed to give the Montgomery County Police Department and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office a combined $843,693 to fight the County’s rising gang problem.
The money, which the Council approved unusually quickly immediately after the public hearing without a Public Safety Committee meeting, will allow the State’s Attorney’s office to start a new gang unit and allow the police department to better organize their efforts on combating gang violence.
“I did not want an additional week to go by without our taking this matter up, getting a public hearing scheduled so we could act on the same day,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1).
Specifically, the Council allocated $596,920 to fund six new positions at Montgomery County Police: a sergeant, three detectives and two civilian gang analysts. In addition, the State’s Attorney Office will receive $246,773 to hire three new assistant state’s attorneys to prosecute gang-related crimes. The three additional state’s attorneys that will make up the new gang unit at the State’s Attorney’s Office will monitor gang activity, translate material from Spanish into English, help interview witnesses and assist in preparing legal documents.
“Gang cases, gang homicides in particular are very complicated because of the number of suspects or people charged who may be involved in the homicides and the challenge of bringing a case to trial when witnesses may be difficult to find or persuaded to talk,” said Phil Andrews, a director of crime and prevention initiatives at the State’s Attorney’s Office. “So there are a lot or reasons why gang cases are labor intensive.”
In July Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger and State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy warned the Council about a growing trend in gang-related crimes. So far in the last two years there have been 20 gang-related homicides in Montgomery County, while the people committing the crimes are getting younger in age.
“If you look at the number of gang crimes the number is still relatively low, but the nature of the violence has increased and the age of the perpetrators has decreased,” Manger said. “We’re seeing younger people involved.”
Recently two bodies police found in a County park were the results of gang-related homicides, according to officials in the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Council member Craig Rice (D-2) said the supplemental appropriation the Council unanimously approved Tuesday “falls short,” saying the County needs to take a regional look gang-related violence.
“We have families that are living in siege, that really feel as though their children can’t walk safely to and from schools,” Rice said.