Council president blasts ‘lawlessness’ after chaotic car meetup in downtown Silver Spring

A lawmaker in Montgomery County, Maryland, said Monday he’s outraged by what he says is increasing crime in Silver Spring, including a chaotic, hourslong car rally over the weekend that drew more than a hundred cars, blocking traffic and spinning out in the middle of intersections.

“This lawlessness in Silver Spring has to stop,” Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker said during a council briefing, pointing to scenes of the rowdy car rally that were posted to social media over the weekend.



“I believe we need a much more vigorous and coordinated law enforcement effort to step up and take action to prevent future incidents like these from happening and shut them down immediately before someone gets killed or seriously injured,” Hucker said.

Hucker said police and residents have asked for more “police visibility” in downtown Silver Spring.

Hucker told reporters he received a detailed report on the incident from Third District Commander David McBain, that indicated the meetup went on for three hours and involved about 150 cars. The gathering began in the Target parking lot on Cherry Hill Road and continued into downtown Silver Spring, where the intersection of Fenton and Ellsworth streets was shut down as cars spun in the roadway.

“I was disappointed that MCPD didn’t pull over any drivers,” Hucker said, adding that business owners and residents also said it took the police “far longer to arrive” than what police have described.

Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, said the county has been working for the past month to establish a crime-prevention unit with high-visibility officers at various locations, such as Silver Spring — with lights on — “during key hours of the evening.”

Montgomery County police Capt. Nicholas Picerno told WTOP that officers don’t chase and arrest those involved in impromptu car rallies because, “The risk to the greater public is pretty significant if you are chasing somebody.”

In response to Hucker’s comments, the Fraternal Order of Police Montgomery County Lodge No. 35 said in a tweet that its officers were “outnumbered by over 150 vehicles” during the car rally due to short-staffing. However, it is willing to work with Hucker to address issues with its patrol, who are “overworked and burned out.”

Disruptive car meetups are nothing new across the D.C. region. In Fairfax County, Virginia, last week, police said they investigated a large, reckless crowd of drivers at a shopping center who were speeding and doing “doughnuts.”

In Montgomery County, Hucker said police and other officials worked for months, including with state lawmakers and officials in neighboring Prince George’s County, to tamp down on disruptive car meetups in the Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center.

He said something similar is needed for Silver Spring, where he said residents and business owners have also pointed to a rise in shootings and carjackings, as well.

“There used to be … a squad car regularly at Ellsworth and Fenton which was not there Saturday night when the entire intersection was shut down by these illegal drivers … with literally crowds of people jumping out of the way to get away from a spinning car in the middle of an intersection,” Hucker said.

“There’s a feeling in the community I hear every single week that Silver Spring has been sort of abandoned, and we really have to do everything possible to counteract that,” he said.

The Montgomery County Council’s public safety committee will hold a twice-yearly update on crime in the county at a meeting on Dec. 6, at which the problem of the car rallies is expected to come up.

Hucker pointed out that lawmakers in New York state recently passed legislation cracking down on drivers and car shops that illegally modify mufflers to make them excessively noisy.

“I’ve asked staff to look into what authority we do have and whether we could model on existing legislation in New York,” Hucker said, of possible county legislation.

Earlier this month, a woman was driving on Spring Street in Silver Spring when someone inside an SUV pulled up alongside her and fired multiple shots into her car. The woman wasn’t injured, but police are still seeking tips in the case.

Two weeks ago, there were different shootings on the same block of Fenton Street, Hucker said, and a shooting several weeks ago in Long Branch left bullet holes in local businesses.

“Every week there seems to be new gun-related incidents that have caused our residents to fear for their safety,” he said.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this story. 

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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