The relatively affluent neighborhood in Montgomery County, Maryland where I live is experiencing something of a crime wave. Reports of crimes like carjacking and break-ins appear regularly on the neighborhood listserves my wife is on. And each week, it seems like the location of the crimes gets closer to our house.
Sometimes the reports complain about the police. The complaint isn’t that the cops are racist or too aggressive. It’s that they aren’t proactive or responsive enough.
My sense that there’s a crime wave in our area is based on anecdotes. But the existence of a crime wave in the County is supported by numbers. According to a local news station:
A significant increase in homicides and other crimes in Montgomery County, Maryland, so far this year has led county police Chief Marcus Jones to label it a “disturbing trend.”
There have been eight homicides in 2021 already, with seven occurring in January, Jones said during a Montgomery County Council committee meeting Thursday.
“It’s unprecedented in its own right,” Jones said. “We’ve never had seven homicides in one month.”
Carjackings are on the rise, particularly in the Silver Spring and Bethesda areas, and robberies are also up, according to Jones.
“We have had nearly a 40% jump in armed robberies in the county,” Jones said. “It’s something we really don’t want to take our eyes off.”
Have my neighbors — including the many with “Black Lives Matter” and other virtue-signaling signs on their lawns — drawn a connection between the crime wave and the demonization of, and lack of support for, the police? I doubt it. (Maybe some neighbors figure their signs will protect them against crime, so they don’t need the police.)
The connection seems clear, nonetheless. The local news station’s article continues:
The [crime] spike comes as the police department faces challenges of recruiting and retaining officers.
“There are always going to be officers who have other career goals in mind,” Jones said.
More officers are resigning or retiring for a variety of reasons, including spouses finding careers in other areas, and intense public and media scrutiny of policing practices.
Jones suggested that such scrutiny in the D.C. region is too much for some officers to handle, prompting them to leave the D.C. region for other parts of Maryland or other states entirely.
“Some of it is because they are actively looking for another police department where communities are more accepting of law enforcement,” Jones said. “It’s not so much about whether or not they’re earning more pay. There are some who have completely left the profession.”
However, salary is sometimes a factor, Jones said, noting that new officers are paid more in other nearby jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, Virginia.
The starting salary in Montgomery County for a police officer is among the lowest in the region.
The chief didn’t quite say it, but the Montgomery County government does not prioritize public safety in its thinking about policing. That’s clear, for example, from its search for a police chief, which I discussed here.
Will voters rethink their preference in a County Executive in light not only of the crime wave, but also the jurisdiction’s lackluster performance in vaccinating people against the coronavirus? That seems more likely, but I’m not betting on it, either.