Earlier this month, a man was arrested for two home invasion incidents in Montgomery County. One of these incidents occurred less than 3 miles from my home in Wheaton. This latest crime follows the recent December kidnapping and robberies around Westfield Wheaton and a stabbing at Northwood High School. While neither of these episodes is connected to the other, I wonder how concerned I should be about crime in Wheaton and what our law enforcement officials are doing about it.
As a husband and father of an 18-month-old, the safety of my family is a top priority. Growing up in the Colesville section of Silver Spring, crime was almost nonexistent. This, along with our school system, were some of the selling points for living and raising a family in Montgomery County. When my wife and I chose Wheaton to buy our first home, crime was the least of our concerns because of the reputation of the county. Since settling in Wheaton and becoming more involved in the community, my sentiments have slightly changed.
To be fair, crime in Montgomery County is still very low. The latest available crime statistics show that total crime in the county is down 8 percent year over year as of third quarter 2011. While total crime in the 4th District, which covers Wheaton, is also down, robberies are up almost 24 percent for the year and aggravated assault increased 6 percent in the third quarter compared to 2010. When I couple these statistics with the planned redevelopment of the Wheaton area, I begin to worry about the area’s readiness to address these issues as the area begins to see an increase in population growth as a result of development in the next few years.
My concerns were validated with a recent article in the Wheaton Patch that discussed the county’s need for an increased police force to meet population growth throughout Montgomery County. The article in question specifically cited Wheaton as one of the areas in need of an increase in “urban style of policing” to meet the changing dynamics of the area brought on by redevelopment. As Wheaton begins to grow and attract more affluent residents in the next few years, the area is going to have to be prepared to properly police and protect its citizens.
By no means am I trying to paint a bleak picture or predict a day when we’ll have massive crime in Wheaton. I still believe that compared to other counties and areas I have lived in that my family and I are safe. As an active member of the community and observer of the change going on in Wheaton, I want to make sure that we make the necessary preparations for the challenges law enforcement will face as redevelopment occurs in our area.
It is not too early to begin and lay the foundation for increasing and training our police force. Long-range planning can begin now and, while I understand that the county is under budget constraints, I hope that law enforcement and the Montgomery County Council can at least begin to implement some small and inexpensive steps that lead to the eventual increase in resources required to protect citizens in the future.