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County Urgently Needs More Police Officers, Police Chief Says

The police force needs to add officers on the streets and increase special response teams to keep up with the county’s pace of growth, Police Chief Tom Manger told the Montgomery County Council Public Safety Committee.

Without more police officers patrolling the streets, Montgomery County will be unprepared to handle future growth, Police Chief Tom Manger told the county council last Thursday.

The police force needs to add officers on the streets and increase special response teams to keep up with the county’s pace of growth, Manger told the Montgomery County Council Public Safety Committee.

As Montgomery County has developed with a growing population, the county police department has had to adapt to what Manger calls a more urban style of policing and desperately needs more officers. While patrolling rural areas of the county is usually sufficient with just officers in cars, higher density has meant putting more officers on bike or on foot in more populated areas. If police staffing remains at its current level, the county will be unprepared to handle future growth, Manger said.

"As we see more and more central business districts become more and more vibrant in this county, and it's not just Silver Spring—it's Wheaton, it's Germantown, it's Rockville, [it's White Flint]—all of these things require an urban style of policing," Manger said.  "I will tell you we are not staffed to do that, to handle that."

, and all sections within the department are feeling the strain. At 1.19 sworn officers to every 1,000 residents, the county is far below the national average of 2.7 officers per every 1,000 residents.

County staffing numbers receive a little boost from the municipalities of Rockville, Takoma Park, Chevy Chase and Gaithersburg, which bring the county ratio of sworn officers per 1,000 residents to 1.38. That is still not enough, according to Manger, who said the necessary solution is a combined effort of adding more officers where needed and increasing the flexibility of the force.

"We've identified certain areas of the county that are long-term areas that have had more criminal activity then we'd want to see,” Manger said. “I want to assign more police officers to some of those high crime areas permanently."

While downtown Silver Spring is still the busiest area for police, robberies in Wheaton are up by 20 percent, and Germantown, with its growing business district, is starting to see a increase in criminal activity.

Meanwhile, the more quiet areas of the county like Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac have seen recent spikes in burglaries and home invasions. .

Manger says the county needs to increase staffing to increase the police force’s flexibility.

"This department is not staffed to be able to react to spikes like that without robbing Peter to pay Paul—without moving resources where they really are being used,” he said. "When you talk about burglaries in the second district you need more than six officers for people to notice and for the bad guys to notice and for us to really have an impact.”

In addition to permanently raising staff levels in certain areas, Manger said he wants to reduce from two to one the county-wide police-community action teams and then add a P-CAT unit to each district.
 P-CAT units are sent to at-risk neighborhoods to conduct concentrated patrolling for a 90-day time period.

"If each district station had their own community action team, this would be, in my view, a band-aid, a down payment on having impact everywhere in this county," he said.

Montgomery County Police Department had made up 15 percent of the county’s total budget in recent years, even with the millions in cutbacks its seen since the recession started. The county allotted $232.4 million of the county operating budget to the department for fiscal year 12, and the police chief and the county executive continue to discuss the county’s staffing needs for FY13. The last time Manger put together a staffing plan for the department, it called for the addition of 250 officers over five years. Now, he would ideally like a plan even higher than that, but recognizes that county pockets remain tight.

"The county executive has asked for a staffing plan, so I think that he recognizes and he has a desire to increase resources to the police department, so I'm hopeful that we're going to have at least some ability to do it in next year's budget."

Councilmembers at the meeting sympathized with Manger, but said that FY13 would continue to be a tight budget year and it would be difficult to meet every need he outlined.

"We know you would like to have more officers in particular areas, and if money were no object we would all say yes without hesitation," said Committee Chairman Phil Andrews, (D-Dist. 3). "But we are not out of the woods yet budgetarily."

jnrentz1 January 25, 2012 at 12:24 PM
The article by Katie Griffith points out another problem brought about by the over crowding and excessive development in Montgomery County.
jag January 25, 2012 at 05:53 PM
jnrentz1, now I know you don't think I'll let you say that without pointing out that you have zero facts to back up such an absurd statement. 2000-2012 growth has looked much, much different than 1950-2000 growth. The focus has shifted to building high-density infill, as opposed to sprawled out single family homes in 2nd and 3rd ring suburbs. If you turn a couple crappy 1 story vacant auto-repair shops in downtown Silver Spring into 300 luxury 1br units (which are occupied by single, young people who pay much, much more in taxes than they use in services) how could that possibly affect MoCo's tax coffers negatively? the answer, of course, is it doesn't. Which is why every county in the region is scrambling to grab as much of the low hanging fruit as possible. Hopefully, the boon Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring, et al. provide to the county coffers will help pay for all the aging infrastructure found in other areas of the county which are now plagued by sprawled out, low density, low quality housing which isn't retaining value because, understandable, there's no demand for it.
jnrentz1 January 25, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Again, The tax dollars generated by new residents does meet Montgomery County's needs for new Police Officers, Firefighters, and Teachers.
jag January 26, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Again, just because you say something over and over again doesn't make it true. Why waste the space and time if you're not going to even attempt to support your inane position? That's how life works - opinions are supposed to be based on, and supported by, facts. You constantly just regurgitate whatever is bouncing around in your head without giving it actual thought or educating yourself on the actual issues. It wouldn't bother me at all, except for the fact that people commonly read comments and give them undeserving weight. Your nutty posts could possibly influence someone who's unfamiliar with the subject matter, therefore I have to waste time disproving them. Do us both a favor and give your posts some thought. P.S. I hope the new year has treated you well on the job front, etc.
ANT January 24, 2013 at 01:08 AM
Montgomery county Is one of the Highest taxed county's in the United States . Democrats Tax and spend . And they never have enough money . they have a bloated gov office . And the cops just drive in circles, Just look any where on Georgia ave or Rock vile pike and you will see them just going back and forth and crisscrossing , wasting fuel and time ! I saw 2 cops pulled of a soccer mom , I went and changed my oil and returned , they were still there , I said you 2 have nothing else to do , why dont you 2 cops go and fight real crime ! They did not like that . Also Montgomery County has one of the Highest public housing ! and they attract more every year ,,,There goes your tax Dollars fools !

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