GAITHERSBURG – County crime decreased by 3.5 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the Montgomery County Police (MCP) 2018 crime and safety report.
Crimes against property decreased in the county between 2017 and 2018, while crime against persons is on the rise, according to the 2018 Annual Report on Crime and Safety. Crimes against property decreased by 11.1 percent, down from 24,298 to 21,612. Crimes against persons increased from 5,998 to 6,278, a 4.7 percent increase.
Some residents said they noticed no change in how safe they felt compared to a year ago.
Daniel Nixon, 37, who was in Rockville April 12 to visit his girlfriend, said he was not aware that crime had decreased in the last year.
“I guess they’re (MCP) doing a good job,” said Nixon.
Nixon did not specify where he lives in the county.
“As a woman, I don’t feel safer here (compared to 2017),” said a 71-year-old woman who lives in Bethesda.
The woman said she did not want to give her name because she is a federal employee and wanted to avoid being mistaken for speaking on behalf of her employer.
MCP reports crime is decreasing, although the unnamed Bethesda woman said she avoids traveling after dark, including to places close by, such as Montgomery Mall, because she does not feel safe.
“I don’t see enough of a police presence (in downtown Bethesda),” the woman said, adding that her observation concerned her.
The 71-year-old employee said other women who work at her job also have said they are fearful of traveling in the county at night.
“We are all afraid of being assaulted,” she added.
Clarksburg resident Sawar Faraz has lived in the county for 25 years and said he did not notice a difference in crime.
“I don’t feel any different,” (compared to 2017),” said Faraz.
“The crimes against Muslim religious institutions, the mosques, has gone up a lot, (including) hate crimes,” Faraz said, adding that he is Muslim.
Although the overall crime rate decreased during the past year, two crimes that increased were rape (up 27.8 percent) and identity theft (nearly double 2017 levels). Both are crimes against persons.
“(MCP has) a basic statistics-oriented meeting to look at crime trends that we’re having,” said Acting Assistant Chief Dinesh Patil said later adding, “Our major crime categories, (we ask,) what’s happening, where is it happening, what do we know, what resources can we bring towards the issue, what information can we share.”
MCP encourages readers of the report not to focus on the reports of rape, but rather the overarching categories, such as crimes against persons and crimes against property. MCP wrote in the report that the number of incidents of identity theft as well as incidents of rape may have increased during the past few years due to changing systems of storing crime report data in 2017.
“We wanted to make sure and clarify (that about the rapes) so people didn’t think that all of a sudden, we had a massive increase in … rapes,” MCP spokesperson Officer Rick Goodale said.
The new system is the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). All “offenses” connected to an incident are recorded instead of only the most severe alleged offense.
Recently retired Chief Tom Manger attributed some of the decline in identity theft reports to residents being informed about identity theft.
“Residents are becoming more educated about such incidents (as identity theft) and are reporting them more frequently,” the report stated. “Investigations in our Investigative Services Bureau led us to nearly 500 additional victims. We notified them and therefore, these cases were officially reported.”
Some victims reported the incident within 24 hours of it occurring – 42.4 percent of 2018 reports of rape, according to the report. Twenty-six percent of incidents reported in 2018 were reported after at least a year had passed. Police investigated all reports of rape “thoroughly,” said Manger.
In fact, MCP spokesperson Captain Tom Jordan said, police investigate all reports of assault and all homicides.
Homicides overall decreased from 22 to 20 in 2017.
The 71-year-old Bethesda resident said gang activity in the county concerns her.
The county received increased funding to enhance a gang investigation unit, which MCP was able to use in 2018. This enabled the department to complete a greater number of investigations than before. No gang-related homicides occurred in 2018. Overall gang crime is increasing, however; gang-related violent crime increased by 27 percent compared to 2017.
As to crimes against property, both robberies and burglaries dropped since the last annual crime and safety report.
Commercial burglaries followed an upward trend in 2016, but in 2018, 1,451 burglaries occurred – the lowest number MCP has reported “in comparison to uniform crime reports dating back to 1980,” according to the report.
The number of robbery reports in the county declined from 734 in 2017 to 592 in 2018.
Goodale said incidents of burglary may be dropping, due to the increased affordability of security systems residents are installing in their homes.
“If a bad guy knows that there’s a good chance a home may have a home security system, they may decide not to do that,” said Goodale. “Again, there are so many factors as to why crime is either up or down.”
The department recently transferred leadership from now-retired Chief Tom Manger to Acting Chief Hamill. Hamill will return to his previous position as an assistant chief once County Executive Marc Elrich appoints a new chief and the county council approves the appointee.