Summer 2017 Newsletter

County Officials to Seek Emergency Funding
for Suppression of Gang-related Violence

By Woody Brosnan

Safe Silver Spring Co-Chair

Montgomery County officials plan to seek emergency funding from the County Council to try to suppress a spike in gang-related violence.

Police Chief Tom Manger said he has been working with County Executive Ike Leggett on a plan that will go to the Council soon and State’s Atty. John McCarthy said he will request $400,000 for more staff.

“We’ve got 18 people dead in the last two years. We’ve got increasing gang violence. Some of these things are out of our control but what we are doing now isn’t working,” said McCarthy in a blunt assessment before the Council’s Public Safety Committee Monday.

McCarthy said a grand jury should be empaneled to target gang leadership and that the Maryland General Assembly should to pass a state law like the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act because the current state anti-gang law is unworkable.

The spike in gang violence contrasts with the overall crime picture in Montgomery County, where most crime statistics were relatively flat in 2016 compared to 2015. Homicides declined from 30 to 15, one-quarter the national average for jurisdictions like Montgomery County with close to one million in population, said Manger.

Gangs are responsible for only a small percentage of crime in the county but there has been an increase in gang violence and a larger proportion of that violence committed by younger gang members, Manger told the committee.

McCarthy said he is convinced that some illegal gang activity is never reported to police by fearful victims.

“There are segments in this community that are paying protection money to gangs to live safely,” said McCarthy.

The recent violence is blamed in part on a recruitment drive by MS-13, a gang headquartered in El Salvador but with branches across the U.S.

In 2009, then U. S. Attorney for Maryland, Rod Rosenstein, now the deputy attorney general, decimated MS-13 in Maryland by prosecuting 42 of its leaders, said McCarthy, but now the gang is mounting a comeback.

More recently Montgomery police have cooperated in investigations that led to 17 indictments against MS-13 members and more indictments are expected in the coming weeks, said Captain Paul Liquorie, director of the Special Investigations Division.

McCarthy said the current state anti-gang statute cannot be used against gang leaders because it requires prosecutors to prove they were directly involved in underlying crimes. He said his office is preparing a stronger law and that he will try to find sponsors within the county delegation.

McCarthy will seek three more prosecutors, two in Circuit Court and one in Juvenile Court, and two paralegals, one to monitor social media, to go after gang leaders. He said he can have the unit running within 30 days. Police officials pledged to transfer officers if necessary to comply with the plan being devised by Leggett and Manger.

McCarthy said one challenge is convincing people that youths as young as 16 can be gang leaders. In one case, McCarthy said, a Juvenile Court judge said, “I don’t want to hear about gangs.”

Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Sidney Katz stressed that there needs to be some funding on the prevention side to try to dissuade youths from joining gangs. Navarro singled out the work of the county’s Street Outreach Network.

The Public Safety Committee also discussed the opioid drug crisis and “counterfeit” drugs.

Liquourie said police recently arrested a Bethesda man in possession of what appeared to be Xanax and MDMA (Molly) but upon testing turned out to be filled with opioids that are addictive. In Philadelphia police seized marijuana laced with opioids.

“Young people buy ‘Rave’ drugs that turn out to be nothing but synthetic opioids,” said Liquorie.

Citing the recent murders of two Northwest High School students, Councilmember Craig Rice warned of the dangers of trafficking with dealers.

“Just because you are purchasing marijuana doesn’t mean you aren’t putting your life at risk by going to that drug deal,” said Rice.

Find the most recent crime statistics report here.
Public Safety Committee Update on Gang Activity


Report from the State Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee Meeting

By David Hondowicz
Safe Silver Spring Legislative Committee Chair

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger is downplaying any suggestion that the County’s grants are at risk from the Justice Department’s crackdown on so-called “Sanctuary” communities.

At a July 26th meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, Manger said he anticipates little or no impact on the County’s eligibility for Department of Justice grants, because the County does not proactively hinder U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Montgomery County Police do not ask for a person’s immigration’s status, but the County does respond to information requests from ICE. For instance, release dates from the County jail are public information. However, the County’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Services will not hold anyone in jail past their scheduled release date. Montgomery County Corrections will not hinder ICE agents arrived at the jail to take individuals into custody upon their release.

In other news from the meeting:

  • It appears that the County Council will receive supplemental funding requests to deal with gangs here from Chief Manger and State’s Atty. John McCarthy shortly after the Council’s summer recess ends in mid-September.
  • Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an Executive Order regarding the ongoing opioid crisis several months ago. The crisis was discussed recently a joint meeting of the County Council's Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committees. 
  • The lack of mental health beds is an acute problem across Maryland. There is a waiting list for 70 beds state-wide of more than 30 days for people in local custody. The current waiting list in Montgomery County is 14 beds.
  • It was reported that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will push for specific Driving While Intoxicated Courts, with Montgomery County as the initial model.
A Metropolitan Approach to Gang Violence
MS-13 is a violent international gang with members throughout the DC Metropolitan area. As Safe Silver Spring, a community-based crime prevention organization, we do not believe MS-13 and other gangs can be countered just by area law enforcement agencies.

Safe Silver Spring is proposing a metropolitan wide task force with members from law enforcement agencies, positive youth development programs, street outreach programs, school system staff, and community groups.

The police departments and other law enforcement agencies in the area do work together. But there is no comprehensive approach to all these components such as exist in Montgomery County’s Positive Youth Development Initiative (PYDI) which is led by the Police, HHS, the Recreation Departments, the School System and includes several other agencies. We need all gang-related agencies in the area to develop a regional plan and communicate regularly.  

A second component of the proposed solution is to use the Los Angeles Homeboy Industry model.  Homeboy Industries has created a number of industries that employ former gang members.  This program has had a very high success rate and is now spreading to many cities. 

For further details see:

Tony Hausner, Founder
Woody Brosnan, Co-Chair, Safe Silver Spring

Celebrating National Night Out

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out (NNO) enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement, while bringing back a true sense of community. The event also provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

Millions of neighbors take part in NNO across thousands of communities from all fifty states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide on the first Tuesday in August. Neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and much, much more.

In Silver Spring, there were many scheduled NNO events, including those at the CASA Multicultural Center, Forest Estates at General Getty Park, South Four Corners at South Four Corners Park, McKenney Hills/Carroll Knolls at McKenney Hills Park; the Hillandale community at West Hillandale Swim Club; Fairland Estates Civic Association; the Tanglewood Apartments, the Lyttonsville/Rosemary Hills/Rock Creek Forest program at the Gwendolyn Coffield Center, and the East County Regional Services Center (Briggs Cheney).  Several Safe Silver Spring Board members visited many of these local celebrations.

Photo above by Alan Bowser

National Night Out Photo links: 

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