Montgomery County police look to add positions in Wheaton, Montgomery Village

Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County

Montgomery County police want to add 23 patrol officers in fiscal 2014, some of whom will be placed in Wheaton and Montgomery Village to curb the areas' high crime rates.

Wheaton and Montgomery Village have the second- and third-highest crime rates in the county, only slightly behind Silver Spring. Last year, the number of crimes shot up in both areas, and police said they want to do more to combat crime there.

Police Chief Tom Manger told a County Council committee on Thursday that the police's proposed fiscal 2014 budget -- which is a 4 percent increase from last year -- would put almost $2 million more toward officer positions. He said the goal is to increase officer presence in Wheaton and Montgomery Village, since calls for service have increased and residents have expressed a desire for more police in the area.

Last year, Wheaton had more than 11,000 crimes. Montgomery Village had slightly more than 10,000, according to police data.

Aggravated assaults were up to 190 in Wheaton in 2012 from 146 the previous year. Montgomery Village saw aggravated assaults jump to 203 in 2012 from 122 the year prior, and robberies jumped to 190 from 122.

Currently, officers work four days a week and one shift per day in those areas. Manger said increasing officers will allow seven days a week and two shifts per day.

"[Residents] feel as though they need increased service from the police and want increased presence," he said.

He said previous efforts in the White Oak area of Silver Spring to beef up police have curbed crime numbers. Efforts elsewhere in Silver Spring to reduce crime have also shown positive results -- the district saw a 20 percent reduction in overall crime since 2008.

Police have had to scale back their operations during the recession and lean budget years, but now Manger said felt it was important police get back to a higher level of staffing.

Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, agreed, saying now was an appropriate time to increase the police force.

"It's about time," he said. "I'm glad we can take some steps to do that now."

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