Montgomery County officials and hundreds of residents of the Hillandale area of Silver Spring gathered Sunday to celebrate the second anniversary of the area's Neighborhood Watch program.

The community, a small part of which lies in Prince George's County, has seen what Montgomery police describe as a dramatic decline in crime since beginning the watch program, one of several such home-grown groups operating in this region.

While no hard statistics on crime in the area were available, Lt. Carl Schwarzel of the Silver Spring police substation said that Hillandale has experienced "a gradual decrease in crime" since the Neighborhood Watch program started.

Police said last year that during the program's first year of operation, burglaries in Hillandale dropped from as many as two or three a day to about one a week. That figure has decreased slightly during the last year, Schwarzel said.

Among other things, residents celebrated their camaraderie and heightened sense of security, said Betsy Bretz, one of the leaders of the Hillandale Neighborhood Watch Network. The celebration at the Naval Weapons Research Center featured a barbecue, a bicycle rodeo, costume and pumpkin-carving contests, and demonstrations by Montgomery's police canine team. There also were poster and essay contest on crime prevention for youngsters.

The Hillandale network spans 143 block organizations, most of them in Montgomery. It is a federation of more than 1,600 households.