Montgomery County crime fell 7 percent in 2009, police say

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 16, 2010

Crime in Montgomery County fell nearly 7 percent last year, driven by a sharp drop in burglaries and car thefts, according to police statistics released Thursday. The county recorded 13 homicides and 124 rapes -- both of which are near 25-year lows and follow similar trends throughout the region.

"We're doing a better job putting cops where they need to be," Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said.

He said technology -- inside and outside the department -- continues to help police solve crimes and get criminals off the street. Inside the department, police are using computerized crime data analysis to better target hot spots and more DNA testing to solve crimes.

Outside the department, detectives are able use an increasing number of surveillance cameras to solve crimes -- even images captured by businesses across the street from those targeted by criminals.

"There are cameras everywhere," Manger said.

More serious "Part I" crimes fell 6.8 percent last year compared with 2008, according to police statistics. Homicides fell 38.1 percent, from 21 to 13; rapes fell 5.3 percent, to 124; robberies fell 9.8 percent, to 992; aggravated assaults increased 8.3 percent, to 904; burglaries decreased 16.4 percent, to 3,011; larcenies fell 3.5 percent, to 18,356; and automobile thefts decreased 23.3 percent, to 1,732.

Totals for less serious "Part II" crimes, such as vandalism and minor assaults, will be released later this year. Reported gang-related crime also dropped, reaching its lowest level in five years.

As for longer-term trends, robberies continue to challenge police. Although they decreased last year, the total is relatively high for the county. In the past 19 years, the county has exceeded 2009's robbery total only six times and most of those high totals have come since 2005.

It also reflects urbanization, because robbers tend to strike people who are on foot in densely populated areas, including parts of Silver Spring, Wheaton, Gaithersburg and Germantown, said Capt. Mitch Cunningham, head of department's Information Support and Analysis Division.

"Nobody is doing robberies on country roads," he said.

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