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Should Residents Be Concerned about Crime in Wheaton?

Should Wheaton residents be concerned about crime in the area as a result of some high profile incidents in the last 6-9 months? Wheaton resident Henriot St. Gerard attempts to answer this question.

 

Earlier this month, a man was in Montgomery County. One of these incidents occurred less than 3 miles from my home in Wheaton. This latest crime follows the recent and a 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 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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

TaL January 30, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Unless and until the county stops using the 20902 and 20906 zip codes as the dumping ground for public housing/rental vouchers, starts enforcing the code restrictions on accessory apartments, and goes after the loitering/public intoxication/etc crimes....no Wheaton-Glenmont will remain what it is. You'd do better lobbying the state for the right to protect yourself than waiting for the West County liberals to stop pushing the their guilt and trash to this side of the park
Henriot St. Gerard January 30, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Hopefully it doesnt get to a point where one needs to protect themselves with arms. We just need to plan in advance and not be forced into reactionary measures should something happen down the line that we werent prepared for.
TaL January 30, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Overall I think crime is dropping--if you get a chance ask any long term resident of what it was like in the late 80's and early 90's especially around Dalewood and the Georgian Forest apartments. That being said the ongoing level of property and nuisance crime in 20902 is the result of failed county housing policies. Its much worse north of Randolph, especially in Viers Mill Village and around upper Glenmont/Aspen Hill where MS and several local crews have become entrenched. According to crimereports.com there have been 59 instances of B&E, assault, robbery, sex crimes or other felonies within the area enclosed by Randolph, Georgia & Viers Mill....in the same area centered on the Bethesda metro station there were 25 reports. You have to ask yourself, what does the county do East of the park that it prevents West of the park? I can tell you right now there are 7 public housing repositories in Wheaton (Amherst Sq, Pembridge Sq, The Ambassador, Georgian Forest, 30% of MetroPointe and 20% of Archstone) and 1 in Bethesda (and it is an age restricted elder care site). This does not include any of the many many vouchers they issue for cheap rental housing in the area. If the county seriously cared about lowering crime and increasing property values in the area, they'd stop putting all of the low income housing here with the attendant problems of property crime, thuggery, litter. Thats the advance planning we need on a community level.
TaL January 30, 2012 at 10:47 PM
On a more personal level, you said "We just need to plan in advance and not be forced into reactionary measures should something happen down the line that we werent prepared for." Its 2am, in August, PEPCO has another blackout and its sweltering...you have all the windows open to catch some hopes of a fresh breeze and you hear the crash of your living room window screen being pushed in by person unknown..... What advance planning steps have you taken to protect yourself, your wife and your 18 month old kid? Do you honestly expect the police to respond in time?
Henriot St. Gerard January 31, 2012 at 02:02 AM
you would hope that police presence would act as a deterrent or sorts where criminals think twice about wanting to commit crime in the area. you cant prevent every single instance of crime, you can however have safe measures and resources to prevent and in some instance react accordingly to a crime. what you dont want it something horrible to happen in the streets and address the issue at that time when things could have been put in place to possibly avoid it.
AntonFisher January 31, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I agree with TaL. The County has created this crime magnet area by concentrating low income housing in it. The County in doing so is recreating the failed model of the 1960s and 1970s that concentrated low income citizens in what we refer to as "The Projects." To solve this problem, the County needs to get rid of all these buildings in Wheaton and maybe increase the percentage of MPDU in all apartment buildings across the County. Low income housing should be distributed evenly across the County.
TaL January 31, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Henriot-- Police presence does act as a deterrent...but there isnt the money in the budget to create enough officers to solve the problem, all you do is move it around. As a micro example, when the 4D officers stop a the 7-11 on Amherst for their coffee, the collection of loiterers that hang out in the parking lot moves down the path towards Bucknell or fades into the parking lots behind Pembridge Sq and Sierra Landing and smokes weed/steals from the cars. When the officers go back on shift, the crowd drifts back to the 7-11 to drink in the lot/harrass passers by. Rather than chase the roaches from room to room, why cant we address the conditions that caused the roaches to congregate in the first place? The county spends millions of dollars a year creating "affordable housing". If instead of subsidizing the criminal class you instead spent 50% of that money on ammenities that professionals would prefer (a new library, a new rec center, some bike lanes, beautification projects, housing code inspectors) you would have a flourishing and relatively crime free community. Thats the long range planning we need to make, not shuffling cops from 3D to 4D as the problem moves from Colesville to DTSS to Wheaton and back depending on where the police presence is lowest....
Henriot St. Gerard January 31, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I hear the points being made and I would say that first, the crimes I mentioned in the article happened by people (except for the school stabbing) who do not live in the county. Second, I wont go so far as to say that a concentration of low income areas automatically means crime. I agree somewhat, for different reasons than both of you, with not concentrating low income housing in one area(s) so we can at least find common ground there. Finally, the shifting of police resources from district to district is exactly what we dont need and that is why my article called for increasing resources so areas are covered properly. The bottom line, is that reducing crime is not solved simply by resources. However, the area is going to see a population growth in the next few years and I dont think that law enforcement is fully prpared to handle this. I am not suggesting we ignore the need for a new library and other community projects that help in improving the community. My piece simply calls for steps to be taken so law enforcement does not fall behind in the population growth expected over the next few years. We just have to find that balance and I acknowldged as much in the piece stating that limited resources does not mean that steps cannot be taken now anyway. Good discussion.
TaL January 31, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Henriot- Im not calling for new spending, this county already has the worst tax burden of the metro area except for PG....what we need to do is consider what we are spending the funds on. If every dollar we spend on public housing brings a need to spend 10 cents on police presence, then perhaps we should consider cutting spending on the public housing rather than taxing more to bring in more cops. Reducing crime is solved by moving the criminal element out of the community. You can see this on a macro level by the gentrification of DC pushing down DC's crime rate and pushing up PG's. This has been occuring since DC cut its very generous social welfare payments under the control board in the 90's and Maryland maintained theirs. We need to look at doing the same here in Mongtomery. Its all well and good for the West of the Park liberals to speak to "income diversity" and "mixed income communities" but somehow none of those projects get built there. The community is a reflection of the resources you build for it. If you keep building MPDUs/Public housing over market rate units you get all the problems that entails. If you instead build rec centers/libraries/town squares (see Rockville for example) and cut off the public housing subsidies all of a sudden you get a nice neighborhood (see Del Ray, Balston-Courthouse, N Alexandria). I pay the same taxes as someone in Bethesda, why do I not deserve the same kind of community?
Jeannette January 31, 2012 at 09:10 PM
I agree that sometimes Wheaton gets the short stick when it comes to County services and money. We who live in Wheaton have to keep reminding elected officials that we are still here and still have needs—perhaps more needs than Silver Spring and Bethesda. Wheaton is so much more than low income housing and crime, though. Those are very small compared to all that Wheaton has to offer. As I have become more active in this community, I have met so many intelligent, passionate about Wheaton, hard-working individuals who care about the community as it is and are following closely to see where it's going. They are helping in the process to be sure that Wheaton gets what it needs and becomes a vital, thriving community in Montgomery County. Change is going to happen. And it's going to be for the better. Wheaton's Clean & Safe Team will continue to watch over Wheaton, and we will get increased police coverage if and when it is needed. If not, the County will hear from these involved citizens of Wheaton. Personally, I love living in Wheaton. I walk it regularly and feel totally safe. I attend events in Wheaton and am active in the community. Wheaton people are interesting and fun. Sorry if I sound like an ad for Wheaton, but I get so tired of the negative attitudes and misinformation. Wheaton is better than perceived, and getting better all the time.
Henriot St. Gerard February 01, 2012 at 01:34 PM
I agree that Wheaton does have a lot to offer and we do and should take steps to avoid the high profile incedents that have recently brought the wrong sort of attention to the community.
Sean February 09, 2012 at 07:27 PM
How do crime rates in the Wheaton CBD (Central Business District - the mall to Amherst to Blueridge to Grandview to Univeristy) compare with those in the CBD in Silver Spring and Bethesda? This area is smaller than the one you mentioned.
Sean February 09, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Don't forget that the majority of people renting in Wheaton are hardworking individuals who want they same things for their families as everyone else.
AntonFisher February 09, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I don't dispute that, but why the County is concentrating these housing units in Wheaton? Why it is not Bethesda, White Flint, or Potomac?
AntonFisher February 09, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Much higher....
Henriot St. Gerard February 10, 2012 at 03:48 AM
My article wasnt aimed at casting blame on any one group of people or individuals. I simply want to bring attention to the fact that the area has had some recent high profile crime and wondered out loud if this is something we should concern ourselves about. The recent episode of an attempted robbery at the Capitol One bank is another unfortunate case that adds to my point that residents should start raising their voices about this issue
TaL February 10, 2012 at 01:44 PM
@ Sean--- Including quality of life crimes (public intoxication etc) Wheaton's CBD had 126 offenses last month, Silver Spring around 110 (hard to define the CBD with the map tool I have) and Bethesda 57.
TaL February 10, 2012 at 01:53 PM
This is annoying that you cant reply to comments....but Henriot- Your original article may not have been assigning blame, but the first thing that comes up with the question "why is crime higher in East County" is how is the population of East County different from the lower crime areas of the county? High profile crime stems from constant low profile crime....why do we have constant low profile crime (loitering, public intoxication, petty theft, etc) Because no matter how many cops you want to hire, if you concentrate all your poor and unemployed/unemployable in a single area they will sit around all day drinking, smoking weed and stealing whatever they can get their hands on. Cure the concentration, cure the problem
AntonFisher February 10, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Also remember that Whaton CBD has a fraction of the foot traffic Silver Spring Bethesda CBDs have.
Commentous November 05, 2012 at 09:19 PM
It looks like crime is expanding rapidly in our neighborhoods as compared to just 9 months ago. The latest crime report for Wheaton was probably the worst I've seen, excluding ones that have homicides: six armed robberies and three residential burglaries in one week! It's depressing, especially as politicians simultaneously focus on the Purple Line and on keeping rents low in Wheaton for renters and for businesses around the Triangle, goals which impede redevelopment. And for all the talk of eclectic business, please walk down Bethesda's streets. There are eclectic, small businesses all over the place. The difference is that most of them serve people with disposable incomes. It's not just a bunch of chain restaurants, even if some of the upscale chains allowed other businesses to come. I favor small businesses generally, but--as a homeowner-resident--I favor the types of small businesses that will help Wheaton prosper. I do not favor five of the same types of businesses in a half-mile radius or numerous check cashing places or laundromats. These types of businesses may be favored by some other groups, which is understandable. But that's why I write as a homeowner-resident: So my views are expressed, even if ignored. If Wheaton at, and north of, the mall doesn't change for the better soon, it will change for the worse. The most recent police report says a lot more about the state of Wheaton than do our politicians.

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