Montgomery County Police are saying that an increased effort to confront gang activity is working, as new funding has led to no gang-related homicides in 2018, after years of increasing gang-related murders.
According to statistics from Montgomery County Police, there have been no gang-related homicides in 2018. The numbers come after the County Council added $596,920 to the police department’s budget to suppress gang activity.
Montgomery County Police officer Lt. Ruben Rosario, a member of MCPD’s Special Investigation Unit, which tracks gang activity in the County, said the appropriation the Council passed back in October for gang suppression has helped MCPD better suppress gang activity.
“They are hitting the streets, establishing better connectivity with our districts and gathering street-level intelligence that maybe in the past was a little more difficult to get,” said Rosario, of the MCPD officers in its gang unit.
However, while police believe gang-related homicides to be down in 2018, gang crimes overall are up around the County this year. According to police, gang-related robberies are up 36 percent, while gang-related assaults are up 46 percent, with the sixth district, which includes Gaithersburg and Germantown, the area with the most gang activity in the County.
Rosario claimed that the increased gang-related crime stats are due, at least in part, to increased enforcement from Montgomery County Police
“That can also drive our numbers a bit, because they’re interacting more,” Rosario said.
On Monday, Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger discussed the lasted crime statistics with the County Council Public Safety Committee. While gang-related homicides were down, according to police, crime was slightly up in 2017.
The areas with the greatest concern are mostly Gaithersburg, Germantown and Wheaton. Police list in their report that Cider Mill and Lakeforest Mall have been the locations for many gang-related robberies and assaults from criminal groups like MS-13, Hittsquad and L3.
“Some of the increase that we’re seeing is related to existing local gangs that are feuding a bit,” said Rosario.
While, police claim there have been no gang-related homicides in 2018, Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said a body that police discovered in Darnestown in March could be ruled a homicide, possibly gang-related.
In July Manger and State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy warned the Council about a growing trend in gang-related crimes. From 2014 to 2016, there were about 20 gang-related homicides in Montgomery County, an increasing trend that has worried investigators, who fear that gang violence in on the rise in the area.
“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.”
In 2017, the number of homicides increased from 16 in 2016 to 23, with about 34 percent of them being gang-related. The overall crime rate increased by 2.4 percent, according to police.
While gang-related homicides are down, the number of overall homicides are slightly up from 2017, with 11 this year so far, compared to 10 at the same time last year.
“I’m hopeful that the numbers will stay low again this year,” Manger said.
In addition to its appropriation for police to suppress gang activity, the Montgomery County Council also passed a $246,773 appropriation for the State’s Attorney’s Office last year to hire three new assistant state’s attorneys to prosecute gang-related crimes.
These three additional assistant state’s attorneys, who 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.