Thirty months ahead of Maryland's next election for governor, the undeclared campaigns of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and his presumptive primary rival, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), are rumbling along.
Duncan held $100-a-head fundraisers Saturday and Monday; spokesman David Weaver says the not-yet-a-candidate is averaging two per month. The Saturday event -- dubbed "the first annual Duncan unity picnic in the park" -- was held at the bumper car pavilion at Glen Echo Park.
Duncan was introduced as "our next governor," according to attendee Chuck Short, a longtime Duncan friend and former director of the county's health and human services department, who said the casually dressed county executive talked about broadening his county successes to the state level.
In addition to political notables -- such as U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D) and Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) -- the Duncanites pulled in some Marylanders from points other than Duncan's Montgomery stomping ground: state Sens. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore) and Gwendolyn T. Britt (D-Prince George's).
For his part, O'Malley has at least two events scheduled next month in Duncan's back yard: a coffee for county Democratic leaders on Tuesday in Cabin John and a speech before the Montgomery County Civic Federation on June 14 in Rockville.
Major crimes, except for rape, decreased slightly in the first quarter of this year compared with the number in the same period last year, according to statistics released last week by the Montgomery County Police Department.
There were six murders in Montgomery in the first three months of this year -- the same number as in the first three months of last year, the statistics show. Police logged 36 rapes between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year, a 38.5 percent increase from the same period last year, police said.
All other types of major crimes -- robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft -- have dropped this year. The number of robberies fell the most: 29.8 percent, from 265 in the first quarter of last year to 186 in the first quarter of this year.
"While I am concerned to see the increase in incidents of rape, the percentage of rapes committed by strangers remains low," Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. "The fact that a suspect is known to the victim does not diminish the crime, of course, but does help stem some of the general fear associated with this crime."
This month, Montgomery County police released statistics showing a slight decrease in crime last year, compared with 2002. The numbers showed that some types of violent crime, including robbery and aggravated assault, increased at a faster rate than the county's population grew.
The number of murders decreased between 2002 and last year -- last year the police counted 21, down from 32 in 2002, but up from 12 in 2000 -- but police say those figures are in keeping with the number of killings that typically occur in the county.
Manger Meets With Latinos
Manger had his first meeting this week with the police department's Latin Liaison Committee.
The group -- comprising two dozen community leaders and county employees -- met with Manger for two hours Tuesday at the Public Service Training Academy in Rockville. Conversation centered on the need for the police department to connect with the county's booming Latino population. Recent gang-related killings in Fairfax animated the conversation; several committee members said it's just a matter of time before similar violence strikes Montgomery.
"If you really want to combat the gang problem, the police really need to do a better job of connecting with the community," Candace Kattar, executive director of Identity, a nonprofit organization that focuses on health and empowerment issues in the Hispanic community, told Manger. "If you don't have that cultural competence, the community feels you're against us."
Several committee members alluded to a recent outburst in gang violence in Northern Virginia, including a May 10 machete attack that wounded a 16-year-old and the fatal shooting of a Herndon teenager May 16 by an assailant with gang tattoo on his forehead. Police have attributed both attacks to gang violence.