Spike in Larcenies Fuels Rise in Transit-Related Crime in Montgomery Co., Md.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Transit-related crime in Montgomery County rose from 2006 to 2008, driven primarily by a 40 percent spike in reported larcenies, according to a report presented Tuesday to the County Council.
Three of the 12 Metro stations in Montgomery -- Shady Grove, Silver Spring and Wheaton -- accounted for 58 percent of transit-related crimes, according to data compiled from the Metro Transit, Montgomery and Takoma Park police departments.
Lucille Baur, spokeswoman for the Montgomery police, said the types of transit-related crimes in the report mirror crime county-wide.
"Theft from vehicles is the most common crime throughout the county," she said. "It makes sense that the most common crime throughout the county is the most common crime that is transit-related as well."
Police have run campaigns to encourage drivers not to leave items such as Global Positioning System devices, nice stereos and laptops visible in their vehicles. At transit parking lots, Montgomery officers have left postcards on vehicles in which valuables were visible inside to alert drivers to be more careful.
All crimes were categorized as either Part I (serious) or Part II (less serious). Larceny, which includes theft from a vehicle, is the least serious of the crimes classified in the serious category, which includes rape and murder.
The report, presented to the council by its Office of Legislative Oversight, shows that there were no transit-related rapes, homicides or burglaries last year. The data show that aggravated assaults fell from 21 to 16 from 2007 to 2008 and that transit-related robberies fell from 114 to 94 in the same period.
The report's major conclusion is that the more serious category of crime increased by 11 percent overall between 2006 and 2008, but officials said much of that was driven by the least worrisome offenses. Police say riders are safer inside the Metro system than outside of it.
"The chance of being victimized in the system by a serious offense is less than three customers per million," said Metro Transit Police Deputy Chief Jeff Delinski. "So statistically, it's very unlikely that you'd be a victim of a crime within the system."
The report, from county legislative analyst Craig Howard, defined transit-related crimes as those that occur on public transit vehicles, at stops or in parking facilities for transit riders.
Howard cited national studies when he said that "the public perceives a greater likelihood of crime on public transit than actually occurs."
"Even taking the data caveats into account," the report says, "transit-related crime represents only a small portion of the 70,000+ crimes reported annually in Montgomery County."