The Montgomery County Police Department this week announced a crime prevention effort that hopefully will involve neighborhood residents and real estate agents in a coordinated effort to reduce local felonies, especially burglaries, according to Chief Robert J. di Grazie.
Known as "Friends for a Safe Neighborhood," the program is a continuation of the neighborhood watch program the police department has run for three years, di Grazia said.
Di Grazia claimed the previous program reduce the chance of burglaries of participants from one in 40 to one in 250. The new twist to the program, di Grazia said, involves neighborhood meetings of area block captains, extensive use of the 911 emergency telephone system, and permanent marking of valuable objects with the Maryland driver's license.
"This is insurance against crime," di Grazia told a press conference at the Rockville police station. "Our programs in the past have involved civic associations, service clubs, and church groups. Now we are involving the help of real estate agents in the county," he said.
There are more than 4,000 real estate agents in Montgomery County, and each of them will be asked to volunteer his time to serve as a "block captain," or neighborhood coordinator for the program, according to Robert Bridges, president of the Montgomery County Board of Realtors.
The trade organization has designated the anti-crime program as its official goodwill project for the next year, and more than 100 real estate agents volunteered within the first week of the program's existence, with 12 of the agents holding meetings in their own homes, Bridges said.
At the meetings, a member of the police force's crime prevention section encourages residents to permanently mark all their property with their Maryland state driver's license number, and inventory their property. He also encourages residents to watch for unusual activity in the neighborhood, and call police on the emergency 911 telephone line if anything unusual is spotted, according to Lt. Robert Hancock, head of the crime prevention section.
Hancock said that there were 5.349 burglaries in the county last year, with an average property loss valued at $675. Burglaries and some other crimes, such as rape and auto theft, have declined in areas such as Gaithersburg and Silver Spring where the program has been in effect, he said.
Bridges of the Board of Realtors said that at the neighborhood meetings, agents will not be encouraged to pass out their own business cards, "but if it (community good will) rubs off, then fine," he said.
For further information on the program call 279-2090.