Overall crime down but Montgomery Co. sees spike in sex assaults, gang violence

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Overall crime numbers in Montgomery County, Maryland, are down by about 48 percent so far this year, but there are some troubling trends emerging when it comes to certain violent crimes and gang activity, officials said.

“We’ve got 11 homicides this year,” police chief Tom Manger told county council members Monday during a public safety hearing that included testimony from several county police officials.

During the same period of time in 2017, the county recorded 10 homicides.

Five of this year’s killings have been domestic-related, while the others are suspected to be drug-related.

Assaults are up by more than 3 percent, and sex offenses have risen by more than 53 percent.

“One of the things that is most alarming are the sex offenses which are up pretty substantially,” Manger said.

Police attributed the increase to a change in the official definition of “rape” as well as the #MeToo movement.

“The #MeToo movement has driven this, rightfully so,” said Russ Hamill, the county’s assistant police chief. “It’s led to a more accepting environment for reports to occur.”

Through all of last year, the county saw a 2 percent rise in overall crime, which included a sharp spike in homicides. There were 23 killings last year compared to 16 in 2016. Eight of the 23 killings were gang-related.

So far this year, police do not believe there have been any gang-related homicides. However, overall gang-related violence is up, rising by a staggering 72 percent due to activity from gangs such as MS-13, Hittsquad and L3.

Gang-related robberies are up by 36 percent and gang-related assaults are up by 43 percent.

“Some of the increase that we’re seeing is related to existing local gangs that are feuding,” said Lt. Ruben Rosario. “Of course, MS-13 also continues to try to maintain its foothold.”

Last fall, the county council approved more than $500,000 for the police department and more than $200,000 for the state’s attorney’s office to work on gang suppression.

The money created six new positions in the police department including a sergeant, three detectives and two civilian gang analysts.

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