Crime Increased in Montgomery County for Third Straight Year, Data Shows

WTOP NEWS: Overall, crime increased in Montgomery County for the third year in a row.

In a briefing before the Montgomery County Council Public Safety Committee, legislative analyst Susan Farag laid out the data:

  • Auto thefts spiked by 131%
  • Carjackings rose by 28.6%
  • Crimes under the category “crimes against society,” including drug offenses, fell by 13.8%
  • Crimes under the category “crimes against persons,” including homicides, rose 6.6%

According to the report, over the past five years, homicides increased by 93.3% from a low of 15 in 2019 to 29 in 2023. Farag said of the 29 homicides in 2023, “86% of the victims were male” and “just two of the victims were under 18, but 10, or 34%, of them were between the ages of 18 and 21.”

Regarding car theft, Farag told the council committee that the spike in car thefts “was obviously fueled by the Hyundai and Kia thefts,” referring to a surge in thefts of the vehicles after social media showed how certain models could be stolen using USB cords.

Carjacking also increased in 2023 in Montgomery County, Farag noted. “We had 19 carjackings in 2019, and we had 99 last year,” she said.

In a number of crime categories, the use of firearms has increased. In cases of aggravated assault, homicide, rape and robbery, the total number of firearms used has steadily increased. “In 2021, firearms were used in about 22% of those crimes,” but by 2023, the use of firearms in those crimes increased to 25%, Farag said.

Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones told the council that the department has a total of 1,280 allocated officers, but there are currently 128 vacancies in the Patrol Services Bureau alone.

“The good news is that we just started a recruit class with 23 recruits,” Jones said.

Jones, who recently announced he’ll be retiring after 38 years in law enforcement, said he’s been working on ways to leverage the work that can be taken up by professional staff. He added that he would soon come before the council with “a request for a retired officers program” saying it would be “vitally important” to free up current patrol officers.

Jones also said the department is leaning into using technology to maximize crime fighting efforts.

Cameras and automated license plate readers are being used “as a force multiplier” to fight crime, including finding stolen cars and carjacked vehicles “in real time,” he said.

The department’s also made use of drones to fight crime, including tracking a suspected repeat shoplifter from a CVS store in Montgomery Hills. The man entered the CVS, tossed stolen items into a large trash bag and took off.

“The individual was actually seen by the camera on the drone getting on a Metro bus,” Jones said.

The bus was tracked to downtown Silver Spring, where, Jones said, “We were able to get the Metro bus stopped, and we were able to arrest that individual.”

The drone has also been able to help de-escalate situations. On two separate occasions when calls came in that a person had a weapon, according to Jones, the drone arrived before police and found that wasn’t the case “and allowed for a de-escalation response.”

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