Results from an informal public safety survey in Wheaton showed more concern with the appearance of the downtown area than with specific crime problems, Mid-County Regional Services Center Director Ana Lopez van Balen said.
Van Balen presented the survey results Monday evening at the second meeting of the Wheaton Public Safety Work Group.
Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro and Councilmember Hans Riemer organized the work group to "study and implement ways of improving public safety, quality of life, and perceptions of downtown Wheaton as it relates to revitalization efforts."
[Read more on Wheaton Patch about the discussion at the work group's first meeting in November.]
One survey question asked for specific ways to improve safety in Wheaton. Respondents selected improving pedestrian safety, lighting, and the appearance of the commercial district as their top three choices.
Of the approximately 230 respondents to the online survey, 190 reported themselves as residents, van Balen said. The typical respondent visits the downtown Wheaton area daily or at least twice a week for eating, shopping, or taking the Metro.
The survey found that the respondents’ overall impression of Wheaton was predominantly average, skewing neither too negative or too positive.
Commander John Damskey of the Fourth District Police called the survey results “typical” of an urban area. “Everything there I expected to see,” he said.
Damskey said he had hoped there would be more minority representation in the survey. Only 6 percent of survey respondents identified as Hispanic, but the demographics of Wheaton are 42 percent Hispanic, van Balen said. Four percent of survey respondents identified as black, and 5 percent identified as Asian, van Balen said.
The work group will meet next on Jan. 17 to discuss the changes coming to Wheaton (such as the new Safeway and apartment building across from the Wheaton Metro Station) and how they will affect public safety.