Crime dropped by 26 percent in Montgomery County, comparing crime rates from 2007 to 2013, according to police data released Tuesday — this despite a recent rash of homicides to start 2014.
Officials say cooperation between different law enforcement agencies and the community has contributed to a drop in crime in Montgomery County over the past few years.
County Executive Isiah Leggett, State’s Attorney John McCarthy, County Council President Craig Rice and Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger spoke at a Tuesday press conference to tout their combined efforts to reduce crime in the county.
Overall, the number of crimes in the county dropped by 26 percent from 2007 to 2013, according to year-end crime statistics from the county. Nationwide, the number of crimes declined by 9 percent from 2007 to 2012.
This year, however, already has almost matched last year’s total number of homicides at eight as of Tuesday. There were eight criminal homicides in the county in 2013, down from 15 in 2012 and 19 in 2005, the earliest data available online from police. So far this year, there have been seven homicides in the county, according to police.
The number of forcible rapes reported was up from 102 in 2012 to 130 in 2013, according to the crime statistics. Manger said part of the increase was probably due to changes in how rapes are reported.
The statistics Montgomery County released are part of the Uniform Crime Reporting program overseen by the FBI. Every year, law enforcement agencies around the country send data about crime in their areas to the bureau. In 2013, the program’s standards included reporting male victims. Before 2013, the statistics only counted female victims of rape.
The police Family Crimes Division also took over investigating rapes where the victim and the suspect were intimate partners, according to a county press release. Many of the investigations came through the Family Justice Center, where victims received a high level of support, the release said. Manger said that may have made people more comfortable with reporting rapes.
Manger said the department has implemented a number of crime-fighting tactics recently, such as tailoring different strategies to different higher-crime areas. A team of officers patrols areas with spikes in crime, weekly meetings keep track of progress and problem areas, and each high school now has a school resource officer from the county or another law enforcement department, Manger said.
In Montgomery County, as in the rest of the country, outside factors affect crime rates before police even get involved, Manger said. Montgomery has invested in schools and economic development, as well as crime prevention programs and initiatives to address mental illness — all things that help keep crime levels low, Manger said.
“There’s a host of things that supplement the work the police department has done,” he said.
Support for police from government agencies and the broader public are a large part of why crime has gone down faster in Montgomery County over the past few years than it has nationwide, Manger said. People report crimes and witnesses show up to testify because they have confidence in law enforcement, he said.
“We’re not out there doing it by ourselves,” he said.
Leggett said the county is not going to rest on its laurels this year.
“It is my anticipation and hope that we can drive these numbers even further down,” he said.
Complete statistics from 2013 and previous years are available at mymcpnews.com under the crime statistics drop-down menu by clicking on “quarterly crime stats.”