June 19, 2010

Montgomery County has burst of robberies

Maryland’s wealthiest county has seen a steady decrease in crime over the last decade. But one category hasn’t faired as well, robberies. Montgomery County has seen the number of robberies jump from 654 in 1999 to 1,100 in 2008. The reason, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told the Washington Examiner, is gangs. Pack robberies in which gangs roam streets and attack unsuspecting residents is, “the biggest problem we’re facing right now,” Manger said. Despite a rising population, Montgomery County has been successful in keeping crime down. But authorities say that state laws against gangs and less stringent sentencing have kept them from being able to bring down the robbery rate. Fairfax County, Va., a twin county to Montgomery, has had more success in decreasing crime thanks in part to strict gang laws. Authorities believe those gangs that once resided in Northern Virginia have now moved into Maryland and Montgomery County.

“The fact is we don’t keep bad guys in jail as long as the state of Virginia,” Manger told the Examiner. “That never ceases to make my head explode. The solution for [Maryland] is we’d rather release [criminals] back into the community than pay the extra money.”

Officers often see the same people on the street that they arrested just days earlier, and many times they say those arrests were made because of robberies. A law broadening the definition of gang activity was passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year. It also made it easier to prosecute gang related crimes. But those looking for more gang prevention say the law was needed years ago. The county is responding by putting more robbery detectives on the force and putting officers along the Prince George’s County line and in Gaithersburg, two problem areas. SOURCE: NBC

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