by Mike Conroy
One of the best ways to build and maintain community ties is through consistent and steady leadership, where all parties understand the dynamics of the community and can work together on solutions and advancement. In Montgomery Village, one of those important ties is with local law enforcement. For several years, we were fortunate to have consistency with former 6th District Commander Willie Parker-Loan; however, in October 2015, Parker received an assignment change, and new commander Dinesh Patil was ushered in.
Patil brings to the position years of experience in many facets of Montgomery County law enforcement, combined with a willingness to learn and work with the community. For the last 7 months, Patil has been getting the “lay of the land,” understanding the challenges of the 6th District and making adjustments to daily routines to maximize police efforts in our area. This ability to look at all levels of interaction comes from his 23 years of experience in Montgomery County, a length of service he is very proud of.
From an early age, Patil was interested in law enforcement. He says he watched shows like “Starsky & Hutch” and “CHiPs” as a kid, but the sensationalism turned into a real interest and ultimately, a career for this Montgomery County native. At the suggestion of a friend’s father who was a Montgomery County lieutenant, Patil was turned on to the idea of becoming a Police Explorer. He says, “I liked the structure. I got to be in the community at events, in the classroom learning and doing ride-alongs. I saw the ‘real’ side of being an officer, and it interested me a lot.” He notes that being an officer presents unique challenges and pressure, but that’s what makes it interesting.
Once he was hooked on law enforcement as a career, Patil wanted nothing more than to serve where he was raised—Montgomery County; it was only at the advice of a mentor that he even considered applying elsewhere. Fortunately for Patil, he landed a job in the 3rd District and has been gaining confidence, credibility, ability and knowledge ever since. As a problem solver, he would often analyze the success of assignments. As he rose in rank, he was able to address some of those issues and foster changes and efficiencies that made it easier for officers to do their jobs. As an avid “techie,” he combined his knowledge and skills, taking the lead on bringing the officer video system to the county.
Through various positions and specialized units in three of the county’s six districts, Patil acquired the knowledge and the skills to run a successful operation. When the time came for him to make a decision to move to the administrative side of things, it was a transition that allowed him to spend time with family and help cultivate officers. While he prefers fieldwork and running calls, the administrative side allows him to properly address and dedicate time to issues that can make for better officers and safer streets.
Patil is also a proponent of supporting and respecting others, with an aim of helping to keep crime down while supporting growth. He sees the revitalization efforts in the Village and around the county. “There’s action again in Montgomery County,” he says. “We need to support the growth, and then help secure it. This will help make these areas successful once again.” Patil says, “It’s a great feeling when you drive past something and you know ‘I helped create that.’ I like to be active in the community—I want people to know that I care because I live here too.”
Crime in the Village
“Wherever there is a concentration of population, there’s bound to be a higher number of crimes committed,” says Patil. Montgomery Village ranks third in the number of service calls received in the county, out of the six total districts. He says that given the diversity and socioeconomics of the area, this is not surprising. And, most of the calls can be traced to a few key areas of the Village, where crimes of opportunity are among the most frequent calls. Patil notes that the proximity to Lakeforest Mall and other shopping centers makes for many shoplifting calls, as well as the convenience for criminals to break into cars in parking lots at these centers. He says that because most of these calls are also near a major transportation hub, it makes it easy for transient crime, and more difficult to catch offenders.
Patil does not deny that there is crime in Montgomery Village, but he notes the importance of not letting misconceptions “go viral.” He remarks that once this happens, it’s easy to ignore the facts and not even question the validity of the claims. This is not to turn a blind eye to recent major crimes—including 2 homicides in 2015 and a third earlier this year—but to keep an open mind when considering what you hear. While it is important to note these crimes are not acceptable by any means, they are also not a threat to the general population.
To help fight the misconceptions about crime in our area, Patil says that showing and promoting ownership and pride in the community works wonders. He is encouraged by the involvement that the residents he has met show in the community, and urges others to become involved as well. He also says it’s good to be proactive to prevent crime, not reactive to crime situations. For example, Patil lists some good habits to get into: locking car and house doors and windows; becoming more aware of your surroundings; getting to know your neighbors; looking out for one another; and attending community meetings when they are held.
He is always happy to talk to residents and help them understand why the police are working in a certain manner (and not necessarily the way you may see them operate on television). He stresses the importance of providing information, referencing the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, but also understanding that police have a job to do, and knowing your role in their scope of work.
Patil is working hard with his officers to change perceptions and the number of crimes committed in Montgomery Village. He says, “I’m excited to be here and be a part of the community. I’m encouraged by the involvement of residents I see in the Village, and given all the recent positive activity I see, it’s a great time to be here to help make a difference.” He hopes to share his experiences to continue to grow good personnel that will continue to make a difference. “I want to be able to look back and see the changes.”
The 6th District Police Station is located at 45 West Watkins Mill Road, Gaithersburg. For non-emergencies, call 240-773-5700, for emergencies dial 911.