Safe Neighborhoods

The recent Montgomery County resident survey reinforced that safety is the foundation of our quality-of-life.
 Safe neighborhoods don’t just have low crime; they are walkable, active communities with places for people
to congregate and have fun.

Key Indicator I.
Violent Crime Rate

About this indicator:  Violent crimes are offenses that involve force or threat of force. Violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
 1.  How are we doing?
Montgomery County enjoys low levels of violent crime, though the rate has been stubbornly consistent in recent years after a considerable drop in the five years between 2006 and 2011. The team focused their discussions on gang-related violent crime, while acknowledging that not all violent crime can be attributed to gangs and recognizing that the designation of any crime as “gang-related” is at the discretion of the Montgomery County Police Department. It is important and relevant to note that the number of gang-related violent crimes committed in the County has risen from 49 in 2013 to 75 in 2016 and the same number in 2017.
* NOTE: Beginning January 1, 2017, MCPD began reporting details about its individual crime incidents through the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Under NIBRS, MCPD records all offenses associated with an incident, rather than only the most severe offense, which provides greater specificity in reporting (greater capability to break data into more categories). 2017 data for Takoma Park, Park Police, and Maryland State Police were based off legacy (SRS) reporting. Therefore caution should be used when comparing to prior years.
2.  What is the story behind the curve?  
Positive Factors
 County and Non-profit leadership and programs. County programs include HHS’s Positive Youth Development Initiative and the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation’s Youthful Offender Program. There are also non-profits in areas that specifically focus on at-risk youth and offer evidence-based intervention programs, including “strength-based” models, and effectively communicate and collaborate on shared goals.
 Good services in schools.  Wraparound services at schools of all levels help drive better-than-expected education outcomes through services like ESOL (English as a Second Language) programs, MCPS Pupil Personnel Workers, MCPS Parent Community Coordinators, HHS Linkages to Learning Programs, High School Based Wellness Centers, and the Street Outreach Network.
 Collaboration across local government. The Positive Youth Development Initiative helps to lead with information sharing, and has multiple areas of focus, including individuals fleeing violence in South/Central America, African American youth and other youth. The Police gang unit and the State’s Attorney’s gang prosecution unit have a shared focus on gang activity that allows County law enforcement to connect the dots on gang operations.
 Practitioners with experience. Many people involved in these efforts have in-depth knowledge and personal experience with the struggles faced by our youth. 
 Regional factors associated with lower crime. The County’s high education, economic prosperity, and availability of public services naturally counteract some crime.
Effective government services. Drug Court helps people to get off drugs and out of gangs in coordination with HHS (Positive Youth Development Initiative programs), non-profits, the Street Outreach Network, Safe Space Program and the County’s Gang Unit; enabling numerous diversion and reentry opportunities.
 County funding:  Dollars are directed to youth services and other programs focused on the most vulnerable populations, such as family intervention and reunification services.
 Recreation centers and community centers:  These facilities provide youth a place to go rather than the streets, such as two Youth Opportunity Centers and three (soon to be four) Safe Space Programs.
Negative Factors
 Poverty and unemployment.  Poverty and unemployment underlie most of the other negative factors listed below.  In the wake of the Great Recession, we experienced a breakdown in the fabric of neighborhoods and social services. Two generation poverty and “fragile families” are major factors in gang involvement.
 Isolation and truancy. Too many youth lack support from their schools, families, community institutions, and health services.  Young people who are not in school or another structured environment have more opportunities to become engaged in violent crime. 
 Complex trauma. The system has difficulty assessing and adapting to the needs of individuals with deeper and more complex issues, including trauma.  
 Drugs.  Drugs and drug addiction are factors in a significant number of violent crimes.
Easy access to guns. It is easy to move guns between jurisdictions without records and to exploit existing loopholes in the law.
The challenge of successfully reunifying families. People who flee their home countries seeking a better life may not be “bringing crime here,” but when families are “fragile” and not effectively brought back together, that plus a lack of opportunity in our communities provides an opening for MS-13 or other gangs, including regional gangs which can be more complex, to recruit.
 Community prejudices, fueled by extremist views in the media.  Biases in the criminal justice system cause youth of color to be viewed as predisposed to criminal activity, and the youth internalize the message.  Negative media messages cause fear and distrust and drive immigrant communities into isolation.  
 Incarceration. Parents who are in jail means they are not present to supervise or guide their children, and there is a lack of fatherhood services and employment supports specifically targeting gang-involved youth.  Mass incarceration leads to cycles of criminal behavior.
 Over-reliance on old methods. Crime suppression rather than prevention and intervention, and a reactive criminal justice system, all address the symptoms rather than the root causes of gang violence.  This focus on symptoms, when compounded by ignorance and bias in the system, causes legitimate associations among youth of color to be criminalized. 
Fragmented regional and County leadership.  While there are collaborations, we do not have leadership with sufficient authority to develop or coordinate a response to gangs.
3.  What strategies do we recommended to turn the curve. 
 1)      Identify service gaps and enhance/expand existing prevention and intervention programs.  Conduct a needs-based assessment to identify where and how to allocate resources based on community needs.  Coordinate with non-profits, County government, schools, and community programs to offer community-based services and trauma-informed care that lead to truancy prevention and youth leadership development.  Fund training and professional development opportunities for service providers and create grant opportunities for non-profits.
 2)      Leverage Positive Youth Development services.
a.      Needs assessment on Positive Youth Development services.  With community input, find the most effective strategies and gaps in services.  Build greater collaboration between community providers and government in the Positive Youth Development group.  Have region-based youth groups report quarterly on activities.
b.      Increase appropriations for Positive Youth Development.  Provide greater access to support services and peer groups. Target youth with the highest needs using data from the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, State’s Attorney’s Office, and the school system (e.g., truancy).
c.       Provide training that is culturally-based.  Partner with MCPS to ensure accountability for their participation in the Positive Youth Development Initiative and hold effective bias and restorative justice training for educators and administrators.
 3)      Improve job readiness/career training.
a.      Improve WorkSource Montgomery.  To help reduce truancy, work with schools to improve economic development and career training.
b.      Support Kirwan Commission recommendations.  Support the Commission’s recommendations for alternative education options for at-risk youth.
c.       Create a job-readiness program. One that specifically targets gang-involved youth or youth that commit acts of violence.
 4)      Engage families and at-risk youth. Develop a family strengthening strategy that helps to build resilience and protective factors to prevent gang membership.  Engage at-risk youth to improve their relationships with County government and school system.  Create a systematic approach to mentoring in the county.  Re-evaluate and re-define gang-related violent crime so we do not criminalize legitimate associations among youth of color.
 5)      Provide greater County leadership on gang violence prevention.  Assign a senior staff member in the County Executive’s office the role of overseeing gang violence prevention.  Develop short and long-term strategies adaptable for different communities or situations.  Obtain support from county law enforcement and the State’s Attorney on these strategies and engage the State Department of Juvenile Services and State Department of Corrections.

Key Indicator II.  Property Crime Rate

 About the Indicator: Property crime includes offenses where the object of the perpetrator is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims. Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
1.  How are we doing?
While the property crime rate has been trending in the right direction (though 2017 data is not yet available), it is vitally important to continue or accelerate the progress being made to keep Montgomery County attractive as a place to live, work and play.
 2.  What is the story behind the curve?
Positive Factors
 Tech-focused community building.  Neighborhood-based Social media and listservs (e.g. Nextdoor) are connecting neighbors and keeping them informed of activity in the neighborhood.
 Good police work. Crime-solving and effective community policing reduce the crime rate.
 Home-based technology. Alarms and cameras help the community and police be more effective in stopping crime.
 An improving economy. Crime is reduced as more people find employment.
 Drug Court. This service helps people get off or stay off drugs without incarceration.
Negative Factors
 Poverty and unemployment.  These factors underlie most of the other negative issues listed below. In 2015, 7.5% of County residents were living below the poverty line, a 67% increase from 2005.
 Fear of reporting crime. Some victims fear being identified to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and more broadly fear contact with all law enforcement services.
 Drug use. People who need money to pay for drugs may steal to fund their habit.
 Perceived safety in suburban areas. This “positive” can lead people to be more careless and fall victim to theft or other crime.
 Gaps in government services. The County lacks systematic workforce training for impoverished communities, comprehensive mental health services, and effective methods to integrate immigrant communities into the larger fabric of the County – all of which leave some people segregated and with few opportunities to make a living.
 Truancy. Frequent absences and a lack of follow-up means that kids are on the streets rather than in school.
 Law enforcement’s focus. There is diminished focus/follow-up on lower-level crimes as police officers concentrate on more serious crimes.
 Porch piracy. An increase in people having packages delivered to homes creates crime of opportunity.
 Poor residential property management. Property managers are not addressing safety in their buildings or complexes. This undermines community cohesion and makes communities less safe.
 Food insecurity. Hunger and desperation drives shoplifting.
 Neighboring jurisdictions.  Crime does not recognize borders and can overflow into Montgomery County; greater coordination on these issues is needed.
3.  What strategies do we recommended to turn the curve?
 1)      Analyze and use data: Access to high quality data to help understand nuances, to correct misperceptions about who is committing the crimes, to correctly formulate strategies for prevention, and to target resources and interventions.
 2)      Improve workforce enhancement programs: For youth/young adults aged 18-25 years old, connecting youth with employment opportunities including entrepreneurial opportunities.
 3)      Encourage partnerships between community service officers and community leaders:  based on the health promoters’ model and through law enforcement communicating with the public on how to address crime in their community, and provide law enforcement with information on how they can support current interventions.
 4)      Increase funding to non-profits and faith-based communities that provide social services along with supporting community organizations and leadership.
 5)      Limit coordination with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to build trust in the community. Expand anonymous reporting options.

Key Indicator III.
III. Number of Severe and Fatal Crashes For All Roadway Users

 About the Indicator: Injuries can occur to the driver, passenger, pedestrian, or cyclist. Fatal crashes include crashes where at least one person involved in the crash had an injury result in death within 1 year of the crash. Severe, or serious, injuries include crashes where at least one person involved in the crash had severe lacerations, broken or distorted extremity (arm or leg), crush injuries, injuries other than bruises or minor lacerations to the skull, chest or abdomen, significant burns, unconsciousness at the scene of the crash, and/or paralysis.
 1.  How are we doing?
Severe and Fatal Traffic Collisions for all  for All Roadway Users
All Pedestrian-involved Collisions                                
While progress is being made on this indicator, the County’s ambitious Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate all severe and fatal crashes from our roadways by 2030. The team’s discussion in this area focused on the County’s pedestrians, noting that the number of all pedestrian-involved traffic collisions increased 16% from 2012 to 2017 (425 to 494).
 2.  What is the story behind the curve?
Positive Factors
 Infrastructure. Road improvements and traffic calming features including crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, circles, and raised light crosswalks make walking and biking safer. This is a positive factor in the locations where these features are added.
Public transit. More metro and bus users means fewer cars on the road.  
Vision Zero plan. The two-year and subsequent ten-year plans set objectives and track data for strategic planning with the goal of eliminating pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries.
Collaboration. There is cross-community advocacy in this area.
Public education campaigns. The County and State conduct education campaigns throughout the year targeted at drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
Financial deterrents. There are new fines for distracted driving.
Negative Factors
Population growth. More density, people, and cars in region create more traffic on roads and more pedestrians who are potential victims of collisions.
Human behavior. More distracted people, both drivers and pedestrians, and more people are out at non-daylight hours, wearing dark clothing that is harder to see.
Infrastructure. The design of roads and lighting is not based on current behavior or needs of a pedestrian friendly environment, and there is lack of traffic calming road features and signage to discourage speeding in some locations.
Layers of government. There is a lack of coordination between the State and local governments with respect to roadway/infrastructure construction and design.
Students. More students may be using public transit instead of traditional yellow school buses that have the proper signals to let drivers know students are exiting/boarding the bus. This may be attributed to increasing numbers of students going to schools outside their home boundary and a possible decrease in the number of after-school buses. 
Transit troubles. Less reliable mass transit creates more drivers on roads.
The judicial system. When pedestrian-involved accidents are not taken seriously, people are not discouraged from dangerous behavior.
Non-road sharing culture. Drivers often believe that cars always have the right-of-way.
3.  What strategies do we recommend to turn the curve?
 1)      Account for Human Behavior in Road Design:  Embrace and incorporate Vision Zero principles and develop a 10-year Vision Zero action plan, develop a Pedestrian Master Plan, look to implement leading and innovative practices from other jurisdictions (including international examples), collaborate with the Planning Board to set forth development processes that integrate these principles in practice.
 2)      Fund and Implement Improved Infrastructure and Technology: Provide additional funding for targeted infrastructure improvements, and be forward leaning in the use of technology for traffic control and de-confliction/collision avoidance. Specific examples include but are not limited to: analysis and redesign of streets, additional hawk signals or other pedestrian activated signals, automated enforcement enhancements, promote technology to disable phones while driving, more crosswalks, signal timing analysis, better signage and marking (adjusting the placement of stop lines at traffic lights, adjusting the placement of stop signs for pedestrians, pedestrian bridges where appropriate, improved lighting, etc.). Consider innovative partnerships, e.g., reevaluating the ownership/maintenance structure for street lighting, incentives for businesses to improve infrastructure, etc.
 3)      Streamline state and local coordination.  Work with the Maryland State Highway Administration to expeditiously implement recommendations (including existing traffic studies and analysis) into meaningful improvements along State highway corridors – particularly in high-incident areas.  Streamline the coordination process, while ensuring local community input and engagement.
 4)      Use data to inform the distribution of resources (including integration of an equity policy and focus on high incident areas).  Actively use data to make decisions, and use data to prioritize the areas most in need of improvement to focus resources accordingly.  Specific examples include high incident areas, areas with most vulnerable road users (e.g., elderly, children, people with disabilities), and areas where enhanced pedestrian infrastructure would improve social justice. Analyze the road network and pedestrian network to create convenient and safe pedestrian connections between points of interest.

The Team

Team Captain: 
Victor Del Pino
Team Members:
Eric Bernard
Brandy Brooks
Diane Cameron
Luis Cardona
Kristy Daphnis
Tony Hausner
Toni Holness
Mara Parker
Perry Paylor
Alison Praisner-Klumpp
Lupi Quinteros-Grady
Joel Rubin
Mehmet Saracoglu
Sunny Schnitzer
Mike Subin
Diego Uriburu
Tiffany Ward
Elijah Wheeler
Marcos Marquez
Marcais Frazier
Rich Harris
Lindsay Lucas

Public feedback and questions from the CE’s Listening Sessions relating to this Priority Outcome reflect concerns about:
  • Prioritizing the risk to pedestrian safety where there are no sidewalks, inadequate crosswalks and/or traffic calming features and poor street lighting; also mentioned was a lack of lighting at certain outdoor recreation areas. This infrastructure needs to be considered in the planning phase and also added when there is a temporary obstruction to walking, such as a construction site.
  • Training our police department and developing transparent policies and procedures to reduce/eliminate racial bias and profiling and increase trust in the community; consider looking at the entire Criminal Justice system comprehensively.
  • Enforcing “No Parking” rules in certain areas where too many parked vehicles can create hazards and inconveniences for residents (e.g. around schools when there are events and some neighborhoods where many box trucks park).
  • Improving the condition of East County roads and understanding where development increases traffic and incentivizes drivers to find unsafe neighborhood cut-throughs.
  • Ensuring emergency preparedness of residents.
  • Revitalizing of blighted properties and improving code enforcement.
  • Including parks and public spaces in development plans.
  • Finding the County’s role in combating hate crimes, domestic violence and human trafficking.
  • Increasing security at County’s homeless facilities.
  • Dealing with the noise and health issues from current flight paths to/from area airports.
  • Addressing 5G cell towers and the unknown health risks (these were also a concern under “A Greener County” but from an environmental nuisance standpoint). 
A public survey on the transition website collected input from residents as well; Respondents conveyed the following related to this Priority Outcome:
  • The most frequently discussed topic was the county’s police force, with an emphasis on the importance of community policing. Respondents commented on a need for police support, accountability, and social justice in enforcement.
  • Respondents supported engagement and inclusion efforts to increase safety and boost equity, including fostering cohesion among neighbors.
  • Multiple responses focused on a need to increase pedestrian safety and create more walkable communities.
  • Respondents identified a need for gang prevention and gun control.
  • Other topics mentioned by multiple responses included domestic violence, education, mental health, streetlights, and social services.

Performance Index: Safe Neighborhoods

Below can be found the Montgomery County Government Departmental Performance Measures that align with the County Executive's Priority to promote safer neighborhoods.