by Mike Conroy
On Thursday, Sept. 15, Montgomery County 6th District Police Commander Dinesh Patil spoke to Village residents, who packed North Creek Board Room, updating them on crime trends, initiatives, technology, outreach and communication issues. Over 50 residents, members of the Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) Board of Directors, MVF staff and Senator Nancy King and District 39 Delegates Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik were in attendance.
Commander Patil began the meeting by saying he was enjoying getting to know and understand Montgomery Village, and he is always looking for ways to stay connected to the community. He noted that overall, recent crime trends for both the county and the 6th District have declined this year. In the Village, one of the only increases is Residential Burglary, but he reported the incidents are mainly concentrated around vacant apartment trespassers. Patil presented some heat maps to illustrate this point.
On the issue of Theft from Autos, Patil stressed the need to lock car doors and not leave valuables in plain sight. He admired the fact that many residents felt safe enough to not have to lock their cars, but advised that these crimes happen because criminals look for the easy target—unlocked cars.
To help mitigate both these issues, Patil said he hopes to apply different strategies to the area, including a Patrol Investigation Unit and possibly officers on Bike Patrol. He said having a greater visible presence will help cut down on these crimes of opportunity. He noted that in the past year, deploying details specifically to areas where robberies had a high occurrence kept that crime down; Patil said he would use this strategy again this year, and apply it to other types of crimes and areas as needed.
The commander also discussed issues surrounding potential development and vacant buildings/property in Montgomery Village. He noted that he is excited about positive changes coming to the Village, but in the meantime, his staff is working to minimize trespassers to those sites. Patil said officers are being sent to these locations during nighttime hours to look for signs that people are there, and are getting them out.
He listened to numerous examples of parking and overcrowding issues from the audience. Although Patil sympathized with the community, he said a solid solution has yet to be conceived. Until then, his officers can only deal with cars that are illegally parked, and in many cases, the cars are moved around just enough to abide by the laws. He did say he would have specific examples looked into and taken care of when appropriate, and even looked into a few specific examples immediately following the meeting.
Lastly, he mentioned the presence of gangs in the Village. Much like the robberies, gang incidents are mostly centralized in one location. Patil noted persistence on the part of his officers and other units in sharing information that leads to the fairly quick arrest of many gang members. He noted that a few small local gangs pop up from time to time, but police are able to spot trends and similarities to crimes that make dealing with them easier. Patil said that the problem with territorial gangs like MS-13 is that they recruit young and are being told what to do. “They’re very organized at the top,” he said.
The Commander noted one of the best ways to head off this activity is to reach the kids in schools. He said that there are personnel at every high school in the county, and that the police work with the school system, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Identity Program, as well as other organizations to engage with and encourage youth, rather than leave them behind.
As a way to aid in recording incidents, body cameras have now been deployed on all Montgomery County Police Officers. Patil said of officers are getting used to the change and the addition of the technology. He is confident it will be a useful tool to help capture context of situations, rather than just written reports, often acting as an “electronic witness” for many situations. For large incidents, he and superiors always review the footage.
In the area of communication, Patil said that the police need to reach more people in as many ways as possible. He commented that he will personally be implementing an e-newsletter in the near future, which residents will have the opportunity to sign up for to receive. He also provided many forms of contact and direct links to online resources to the audience; Patil wants to be accessible to the community. This information is also posted online at www.montgomeryvillage.com; choose “Local Resources” from the “About MV” menu on the blue bar.
For the future, Commander Patil hopes to be able to add more officers to his staff, which would allow him to diversify the types of patrol teams available to tackle specific situations. For the present, he said it would be helpful to have analytical help in tracking data. Either of those initiatives is subject to county funding and updated staffing plans. For now, he is dedicated to more outreach opportunities and communication efforts with Village residents, and encourages residents to contact the police. As the current MCPD slogan reminds, when you ‘”See Something, Say Something.”