by Mike Conroy
About 150 residents filled North Creek Community Center on June 14 to hear from the Montgomery County Police (MCPD) regarding crime trends and recent events in Montgomery Village. Sixth District Police Commander Dinesh Patil, Lieutenant Jordan Statinsky and Detective Nick Picerno, addressed resident concerns and stressed the importance of reporting suspicious activity. Also showing their support for the community were Senator Nancy King; several other MCPD officers, some of whom are Village residents; Upcounty Regional Services Center Director Cathy Matthews; Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) Board members; and MVF staff.
Patil and Picerno gave a rundown of the double homicide that happened on June 5 in East Village. Picerno reviewed the released information regarding the case, but was unable to provide any new details at that time, noting that the investigation is ongoing, and it is a priority to solve. Since the June 14 meeting, three arrests have been made in connection to the incident.
Patil offered his perspective, saying that this incident was very unique and atypical in Montgomery County, let alone on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood in the Village. He again stressed the importance of residents reporting incidents, saying that in this instance, there was only one call for service at the time of the incident.
Patil went on to say that despite Montgomery County’s having one of the top 60 police forces in the country and having access to excellent training and resources, crime, overall, is on the rise in the county. He noted that in the Village, while both robberies and auto theft have seen a higher number of incidents, many offenders are being caught and the crimes are those of opportunity. In the case of robberies, he said that many incidents have led to arrests, and in some cases, the offenders are connected to multiple incidents (which has led to the higher reporting numbers).
Regarding auto theft or thefts from vehicles, Patil said the numbers are high because generally, residents feel safe, and criminals are capitalizing on that. He said almost no incidents involved a forced entry because people leave their cars unlocked, sometimes with the keys still in them. He again stressed the importance of taking or hiding valuables, even loose change, from your car and locking it to prevent this crime of opportunity. One audience member also reminded others to remove garage door openers, as access to those can easily lead to thefts from inside the home as well.
Patil urged the audience to “bother the police” saying that often residents don’t call because they feel their concern is unimportant or insignificant. But he said, “you know what’s right and wrong in your neighborhood” and making the call can make a difference.
Long-time resident and Senator Nancy King echoed this sentiment, adding that in her 36 years as a Village homeowner, she has never felt unsafe. King said she knows that crime goes up and down in cycles, but was realistic in saying that crime is everywhere; she believes that Montgomery County Police are “top-notch” and are equipped to handle what comes their way. King also said she enjoys the diversity of the community and that compared to many places in the country, Montgomery Village offers its residents a lot of options. She reassured the audience that “this is a great place to live. I’m staying!”
Residents asked questions on a number of topics including the replacement of the School Resources Officer at Watkins Mill High School; the use of the NextDoor social media platform; effectiveness of security patrols; and interagency cooperation when dealing with documented criminals. Additionally, Patil answered several questions dealing with the topic of proactive security and safety measures.
Patil talked about Neighborhood Watch groups and noted he could help facilitate information and training, if residents wanted to participate. One resident mentioned that keeping outdoor lights on at night was a proven crime-deterrent, and the addition of security lighting and cameras to home could help. Patil agreed, noting that he has those features on his own home. Montgomery Village residents should note that while these items are permitted on homes, they must be installed within the community criteria for each neighborhood; approval from the Architectural Review Board is necessary before installing security lighting or cameras.
In answering another question about addressing crime and seeing results, Patil said that the police make small steps to see big change—it doesn’t all happen at once. He assured those in attendance that his staff works to the best of their ability and is proactive in keeping incidents down and residents educated.
Currently, Patil oversees 100 officers assigned to the 6th District. This includes an 8-officer DCAT team, a plain clothes unit, detectives and patrol investigation officers. The county council also recently approved funding for five additional officers and one sergeant for the 6th District. Patil wants to dedicate this team of police to Montgomery Village, though the details of how and in what capacity are still under consideration.
The 6th District Police Station is located at 45A West Watkins Mill Road, Gaithersburg. For general information, call the station at 240-773-5100; for non-emergencies, call 301-279-8000; and for crime tips, call 240-773-8477. Always call 911 in an emergency situation. These numbers and other police resource information can also be found online at www.montgomeryvillage.com.