Anti-crime efforts underway in downtown Silver Spring following weekend car rally

Montgomery County, Maryland, Council President Tom Hucker has said a greater police presence is needed in downtown Silver Spring to combat crime.

But Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, said the county is “taking action based on what’s been happening in Silver Spring.”

Montgomery County police are investigating a fatal shooting that took place Sunday night, and they’re working to keep tabs on the drivers who swarmed into downtown intersections, where some did donuts while groups of spectators took videos.

Stoddard, who works in the administration of County Executive Marc Elrich, explained that a crime-prevention unit is putting high-visibility officers at various locations — with lights on — “during key hours of the evening.”

The effort started just one month ago, Stoddard said, and will continue beyond the holidays. Data will be collected and analyzed to see what kind of an impact it’s having.

“We’re trying to do some creative and new things to address crime in Silver Spring writ large,” said Stoddard.

The efforts to go after drivers who race along highways and into downtown areas to perform stunts, spinning their cars in circles with spectators just inches away, is a tricky one, according to Stoddard and law enforcement officials.

Videos of the action — which involved up to 150 vehicles, according to county officials — were spread over social media.

“The videos are certainly disturbing,” Montgomery County police Capt. Nicholas Picerno told WTOP.

When asked why police didn’t appear to chase and arrest those involved in the impromptu car rallies, he replied, “The risk to the greater public is pretty significant if you are chasing somebody.”

It was clear, Picerno said, that the groups of drivers were coordinating with one another, and they kept moving from place to place. “They moved from different locations both within Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.”

Picerno said police have information that many of those who took part came from outside the region. They came from New Jersey, “from Pennsylvania, from Delaware, from Richmond,” Picerno said. “A pretty good portion of the mid-Atlantic region.”

There was one arrest connected to the incident over the weekend, Stoddard said, and the county is working on creative ways to discourage the dangerous behavior, including when probable cause can’t be determined.

One strategy, said Stoddard, involves contacting insurance companies.

“We can go to the insurance companies with the evidence that we have,”  he said, including video footage and information from license plate readers.

“It creates another tool in the toolbox just to create a disincentive for people to do this,” Stoddard said.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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