Spring 2023 Updates (See More Information below for Details).
Hate crimes are up, property crimes are up, but police staffing is down. The Maryland General Assembly and the County Council have taken steps to deal with hate crimes, and the County is trying to add more police officers. In is 2023 session, the General Assembly also passed several gun control measures. The PRA has held two meetings of those interested on the topic of Neighborhood Watch Programs [NWPs] as one possible response to crime in the community.
- Hate Crimes
- Crime Rate
- Gun Control
- Neighborhood Watch Programs
- Police Accountability Board
- Policing Advisory Commission
- Police practices
- Police Staffing
- Securing our homes and neighborhood
- Abandoned and Neglected Homes in Parkwood
- Autumn Safety Tips
- Summer Safety Tips – while here or traveling
- Scams-New Ones
- Vision Zero
Maryland recorded the 10th-highest number of antisemitic incidents nationwide in 2022 with 109 and the County experienced a significant increase in hate crimes. In response the General Assembly and the County took the following steps:
Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention
House Bill 1066 (passed) establishes the Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention in the Office of the Attorney General. Commission members are appointed by the Attorney General, and the Attorney General or the Attorney General’s designee is the chair of the commission. The commission is required to (1) develop strategies to prevent and respond to hate crime activity and (2) evaluate State laws and policies relating to hate crimes. On or before December 1 each year, beginning in 2024, the commission must report to (1) the Maryland State Department of Education on policy recommendations to address hate crimes that occur in schools and (2) the General Assembly on legislative recommendations to address hate crimes in the State.
Maryland Holocaust Remembrance Day. Senate Bill 842/House Bill 1244 (Chs. 13 and 14) require the Governor to annually proclaim January 27 as Maryland Holocaust Remembrance Day
Protecting Against Hate Crimes Grant Fund
Senate Bill 840 (passed) establishes the Protecting Against Hate Crimes Grant Fund, a special fund administered by the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services [GOCPYVS], to make grants to nonprofit organizations, including faith-based organizations, to provide security enhancements to protect against hate crimes. For fiscal 2025 and each fiscal year thereafter, the Governor may include in the annual budget bill an appropriation of $5 million to the fund.
Victim of Hate Crime. Senate Bill 5/House Bill 13 (both passed) authorize a person who is the victim of an act that would constitute a violation of the State’s hate crime laws to bring a civil action against the person or persons who committed the act.
The head of the County Council asked the County Executive to put together an Anti-Hate Task Force to combat hate crimes, given an increase in crimes targeting people’s race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation. [Ed. note. It is not clear what relationship would be between this Task Force and the Montgomery County Committee Against Hate/Violence – see below.] Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass sent a letter to County Executive Marc Elrich on February 21, 2023, making the request. Glass tweeted a copy of the letter on Wednesday.
County’s Nonprofit Security Grants program. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich was joined by County Council Vice President Andrew Friedson, Councilmembers and leaders from local faith-based and nonprofit organizations to announce $800,000 in grants to local organizations to improve security and deter hate crimes through the County’s Nonprofit Security Grants program. The $800,000 in grants was awarded to 91 facilities—either religious institutions or community nonprofits, officials said Monday. The funds can be used for buying or updating security cameras or hiring security personnel to protect their facilities.
Committee Against Hate/Violence [already established as part of the County Commission on Human Rights]
The duties of the Hate/Violence Committee are to develop and distribute information about hate/violence, promote educational activities that demonstrate the positive value of ethnic and social diversity; advise the County Council, the County Executive, and County agencies about hate/violence in the County, and recommend such policies, programs, legislation, or regulations as it finds necessary to reduce the incidences of acts of hate/violence.
Schools Plan. See more on the MCPS plans in Schools update here.
See this multi-part series by Adam Pugnacco which analyzes data on crime in the County by type, area, demographics, time of day, effect of police staffing levels, etc.
Our District 18 representatives reported that the General Assembly passed the following measures in its 2023 session.
- Gun Safety Act of 2023, which substantially limits where individuals may carry firearms.
- Raised the age for regulated firearms from 18 to 21.
- Jaelynn’s Law, which requires firearms to be safely stored, locked and unloaded, and not accessible to children.
- Strengthened our firearm permitting process to ensure that guns don’t end up in the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
- Directed the Maryland State Police Gun Center to track all firearms surrendered through protective orders.
Neighborhood Watch Programs
We have held two meetings on Neighborhood Watch Programs as a possible deterrent to crime in our community.
The 1st meeting was held March 29, 2023; the Zoom link to the recording of the meeting is here and the summary of the meeting is here. The passcode for the recording, which is easiest to cut and paste, is gy$9#BxO [note that the last character is a capital “O”.]
The 2nd meeting was held on May 23, 2023; A summary of the discussion and action items that came out of that meeting can be found here. The Zoom link to the recording of the meeting is here. The passcode, which it is easiest to cut and paste, is ?3+X44G4
A link to references to additional information about NWPs is here.
Action items that came out of the second meeting: Survey residents regarding their views on: 1) having a volunteer nighttime watch program and whether they would be willing to participate 2) paying a private company to provide such a service and whether and how much they would be willing to pay for such a service. Because we are about to enter the summer vacation season, we will conduct this survey in the fall. Also, find out what, if anything, Chevy Chase View and the Town of Kensington do about these issues.
Police Accountability Board
Issue: How to structure a new Police Accountability Board (PAB)as required by the state of Maryland. See Background after Latest Actions below. The PAB website is here.
2023. The PAB recently submitted their Annual Report to the County Executive and County Council.
- 28 June 2022: In accordance with Maryland House Bill (HB670) passed during the 2022 legislative session, the County Council established and approved the appointment this past summer of nine members to the Police Accountability Board [PAB]. Three of five members have been appointed to the Administrative Charging Committee [ACC]; the remaining two are expected to be appointed in the Fall, 2022. See staff report here. The new law requires the governing body of each county to establish a PAB and an (ACC) to handle each complaint alleging police misconduct by a police officer employed by the County or a municipal police department located in the County filed by a member of the public.
- 22 March: The Council held its fourth work session on Expedited Bill 49-21 which would establish a Police Accountability Board (PAB) and Administrative Charging Committee (ACC) for the County. The goal of the bill is to help improve police accountability.
- 24 January: A Public Safety Committee meeting on Bill 49-21, Police Accountability Board is scheduled for Jan. 24. See Council Action on January 18.
- January 18, 7:30 p.m.: Council will to hold a public hearing on Bill 49-21, Police Accountability Board – Administrative Charging Committee – Established, which would establish a Police Accountability Board (PAB) and Administrative Charging Committee (ACC) for the County. Staff report is here.
The Maryland General Assembly enacted a series of laws establishing uniform standards for police department operations throughout the state. One of these laws, House Bill (HB) 670, created a new uniform procedure for police accountability and discipline. This new law requires the governing body of each county to establish a PAB and an ACC to handle complaints of police misconduct from a member of the public in the County. HB 670 also gives the County PAB and the County ACC jurisdiction over police misconduct complaints against municipal police departments located in the County.
The goal of Bill 49-21 is to help improve police accountability. The lead sponsor is the Council President, at the request of the County Executive.
Policing Advisory Commission
The Policing Advisory Commission, which was created in 2019 by the Montgomery County Council in response to the ongoing public dialogue around policing practices and as an effort to increase community involvement in matters of public safety. The Commission’s mission is to advise the Council on policing matters and recommend policies, programs, legislation, or regulations with regards to policing.
On January 9, 2023, the Commission held a public forum on traffic enforcement to solicit community testimony and feedback on traffic enforcement in the County by the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD). The recording of that forum is here.
Issue: Whether and how police practices should be changed to improve their effectiveness and to ensure equal enforcement and protection.
Background: Nationally reported incidents of harsh use of force and killings by police have led some to call for changes in police practices and procedures. These range from limits on police use of force to changes in responsibility for responding to certain kinds of 911 emergency calls, e.g., creation of a mental health unit to deal with individuals displaying mental health problems Some have gone so far as to call for “defunding the police”, although this often means shifting the responsibility for certain things, e.g., traffic violations to other agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, along with the funds for administering the program.
Equity in the enforcement of the law has also become an issue. The Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight has conducted a study of local policing data and practices and found that available data demonstrates wide disparities in police-public interactions by race and ethnicity in the County, especially for traffic stops and violations, arrests, and use of force. Based these disparities Councilmember Jawando has introduced a bill last November to require that the MCPD keeps a publicly available record of these stops, trespass orders, and other citations, including where they are issued, and to whom, and how often.
Police organizations, including both police departments and police unions are opposed to some of the changes being considered, arguing that if implemented, they could prevent police from carrying out their jobs, or arguing that the problem being solved is not as serious or as frequent as suggested.
In April, at the end of its 2021 session, the Maryland General Assembly overrode vetoes by Governor Hogan and enacted several laws that affect police procedures. These include:
- Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
- Setting new rules for when police may use force
- Raising the bar for officers to use force
- Giving civilians a role in police discipline for the first time
- Restricting no-knock warrants
- Mandating body cameras
- Opening some allegations of police wrongdoing for public review.
The Governor allowed two other police accountability bills to become law without his signature. One puts in place a process to return the Baltimore Police Department to local control for the first time since 1860. The other, which takes effect in October, shifts the investigation of police-involved fatalities from local authorities to an independent unit in the state attorney general’s office. It also bans police departments from acquiring surplus military equipment.
In July 2020, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed legislation limiting the police department’s use of force, part of an effort to address local and national concerns about law enforcement use of force in the community. At the time, a police union official criticized some of the changes put in place, saying they will make it impossible for officers to do their job. In May 2021 the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, a union that represents officers in Montgomery County initiated a law suit against this policy that restricts officers’ ability to use force, saying the policy is not subject to collective bargaining.
- See this Washington Post article for more details about the laws enacted by the General Assembly
- See this Washington Post article for a description of some of the debate in the House of Delegates regarding the racial context of the police reform bills.
information added 05/21/2021
For almost 20 years the Police Department’s staff has been lower than the average for similarly sized jurisdictions – 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents compared to 2.5 officers per capita reported for suburban areas. Nevertheless, County has continued to have relatively low crime rates. After taking significant budget cuts during the great recession, Police staffing increased slowly over the past 10 years, from 1,159 authorized sworn positions in FY12 to a high of 1,306 in FY21. A primary attrition driver is that much of the sworn work force has reached retirement eligibility after a large hiring push in the 1990s. Recent developments have amplified attrition rates, including pandemic-related illnesses, deaths, and resignations, as well as societal and political backlash against police.
Spring 2023 Update. A new analysis prepared by county council staff paints a grim picture of public safety in Montgomery County. The basic message of the analysis is two-fold: crime continues to rise as the police department remains “critically understaffed.” Council public safety analyst Susan Farag begins her analysis of the county executive’s recommended FY24 police budget with this opening statement. “The FY24 Recommended Operating Budget provides a 7% expenditure increase, primarily to fund compensation, but it also reflects a net service reduction. The Department remains critically understaffed, impacting service delivery. Service reduction is more likely to widen racial disparities in community safety. The Department has had more than 20 police reform mandates placed on it, and the Executive has begun implementing reform recommendations from the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force and the ELEFA Departmental Audit. The budget adds 12 new civilian positions to support audit recommendations and school safety. Recruiting and retention challenges remain.
- Department’s resignations and retirements jumped 64% in 2022
- Sworn officer vacancy rate is at 10%
- The 911 Emergency Communication Center (ECC) has a 36% vacancy rate.
- Average call response time is at a decade high.
- Roughly one of every six patrol officer positions in Bethesda and Wheaton are vacant.
Winter 2023 Update. At a recent meeting of the MCCF, Police Chief Marcus Jones said the department was down by 125 officers, leading to reduced traffic enforcement. Updated 01/20/2023
2022 Update. See this staff report to the Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Securing Our Homes and Neighborhood
Issue: How can we improve the security of our homes and neighborhood
Background: Since 2019, the PRA Safety Committee has been using the Parkwood listserve to alert the community to the following:
- Recommendations from Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) on ways to reduce crime to personal property.
- Information about fire safety.
- Up-to-date information about neighborhood crime statistics bi-monthly.
- Various ongoing telephone, internet or door-to-door scams.
- Worked with Montgomery County Transportation Department (MCDOT) to install improved signage to reduce traffic accidents/violations.
The work of the committee is having an effect; reported incidents were lower in 2020 through mid-December than they were for the same period in 2019. See the link below under More Information. Thefts from automobiles continue to be the most frequently reported crime in the entire County.
information added 12/18/2020
Abandoned and Neglected Homes in Parkwood
Issue: Abandoned/neglected homes negatively impact our neighborhood
Background: Since 2020, the PRA Safety committee (Jill Lipton and Gabrielle Prandoni) has been working with Councilman Friedson’s staff to address this issue.
- One abandoned home on Cedar was sold, and a new home was erected in its place. Another home on Everett has been officially “condemned” by the County; we are waiting to see what follows.
- Other properties that were neglected have been brought up to code after members of the Safety Committee contacted the appropriate government officials
Autumn Safety Tips
Parkwood is a safe community. But there are certain things we can do to keep each other SAFER, as autumn begins and daylight time is reduced.
- Remember to lock your car doors and remove any valuable items. Theft from vehicles is the #1 problem that affects all communities in Montgomery County.
- Set up a system with your household members to ensure that all doors and windows are locked before you retire for the night.
- Leave outside lights ON during the night. Light is one of the most effective ways of deterring crime. You can purchase light bulbs that will turn on/off automatically as the outside light decreases or increases.
- Store valuable items such as baby strollers, bicycles, scooters in a place that is secure. Do Not leave them in front of your home. A good rule of thumb is “If they can’t see it they don’t know it’s there.”
- If you have a repair person working in your home be sure to check that all doors are locked when they complete their work.
- People soliciting door to door are required to have a permit to do so. Ask to see the permit before speaking with them. If they do not have a permit, call the MCPD non-emergency number 301-279-8000.
- If you get up during the night look out your window to see if there is any suspicious activity. If there is call the MCPD non- emergency number 301-279-8000
- You can request a free safety audit of your home by the Montgomery County Police Department by calling the non-emergency number 301-279-8000
Updated September 29, 2022
From the PRA Safety Committee:
Malvertising. There are new ways that bad guys are accessing your info, so please be careful. Quoting from an article in the Washington Post (September 16, 2022) “Add one more to the list of online places bad guys are hiding: the very top of search results. Nasty scams and malware are preying on your trust by hiding behind the ads that sit on top of search pages. Google, Duck Duck-Go, and Bing are being paid to put them in front of us, and they haven’t figures our how to stop it. Its called “Malvertising” and if you’re not vigilant at spotting it, you could get burned.”
Telephone Scams. Over the last several weeks, some Montgomery County residents have received calls from a person stating that he/she is a Montgomery County Police (MCP) Officer. The scammer has “spoofed” (disguised) his number to make it appear that the call is coming from a Police Station. There are variations of this police impersonator scam but generally the “officer” states that the resident has to make a payment – for a bond, warrant, missed court hearing, or fine. The scammer instructs the resident to send money through a wire transfer, pre-paid cards or internet transaction. It is important to remember that the Montgomery County Police Department will never call residents to collect payment for fines or bonds nor solicit money. If you receive this type of call, hang up and call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.
Speeding. At the request of residents on Saul Road, the PRA Safety Committee contacted Councilmember Evan Glass’ office regarding speeding on Saul Rd between the Cedar Lane entrance to Parkwood and Wildwood. The Councilmember referred the problem to the County’s Dept. of Transportation, which agreed to undertake an “evaluation [that] will take approximately 45 days (excluding weekends and public holidays)”. The department will report its findings and recommendations by May, “weather and schedule permitted.”
Summer Tips-while here or traveling
- Make sure all valuable items (bikes, strollers etc) are stored out of sight or in a secure place.
- Make sure sidewalks are clear so members of the community can walk without encountering overgrown shrubs.
- If the weather is nice do not leave ground level windows open if you are not at home, or at night.
- Make sure your home and cars are locked before you retire for the night. If you have an alarm system set it.
- While away, make sure you cancel mail and the newspapers or have them picked up by a reliable neighbor.
Update June 2022
To reduce pedestrian and traffic fatalities, the County has established Vision Zero. Progress has been somewhat uneven to date. According to the latest Vision Zero annual report (2022), there were 33 fatal collisions in 2021, 39 in 2020, and 32 in 2019. In 2022, however, there were as many as 40 fatal collisions in Montgomery County. Updated 01/20/2023