CRIME • BY KIRSTY GROFF
A recent string of robberies in Shepherd Park, D.C., led to a community crime briefing that allowed area police departments, government officials and citizens to interact and discuss how to move forward.
Shepherd Park experienced four reported armed street robberies during the first three weeks of January, mainly occurring between 7 and 10 p.m. According to Lanier, none of the crimes appear to be gang-related. These crimes have included carjacking as well as the robbing of personal belongings.
D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser led the January 23 meeting, which took place at 7:35 p.m. at Shepherd Park Elementary School. Since Shepherd Park is on the border of multiple jurisdictions, representatives from several area police departments made it out, including D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, D.C. Fourth District Commander Kimberly Chisley-Missouri, Takoma Park Police Chief Ronald Ricucci, and Montgomery County Police Lt. Robert Carter.
The meeting was at standing-room-only capacity, with more than 200 people in attendance. One member of the audience was Evan Glass, President of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association.
“Shepherd Park is a community that is right on the D.C.-Maryland border, so there really is no divide between what happens there and what happens in Silver Spring and Takoma Park,’ says Glass. “A lot of people in South Silver Spring maintain awareness of what’s happening across the street in Shepherd Park and vice versa.”
As the crimes have increased, so has police presence in the area. Missouri added three additional officers to the area following the first two crime and added bike patrols later on. Fourteen plain-clothes officers began patrolling the area following the robbery that took place January 18.
According to Montgomery County police, the crimes have not crossed over the D.C. border. However, there have been similar crimes occurring in Bethesda, Md. near the D.C. border, according to Ricucci.
Long-term plans are also in place for these types of crimes in the future. D.C. recently announced a new rewards program for people who call in with tips, with rewards ranging from $1000 to $10,000. D.C. police are also working toward the ability to disable a stolen phone as well as technology that would search sites like eBay and Craigslist for stolen goods. Glass, however, things the police could be better about communicating with residents.
“In an age when so many people are getting information via email and via text message, I think that we could modernize the communication tools the police departments are currently employing to alert residents in near real time about events that are taking place,” says Glass. “People would like to know as soon as possible what’s happening not only for their personal protection but so that they can be on the lookout.”
One place communication is not lacking, though, is between representatives of the area police departments. The Metropolitan Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department and Takoma Park Police Department members communicate frequently, not just in times of crime trends like this.
“We talk on an everyday basis with D.C. and Montgomery County,” says Ricucci. “Our crime analysts, our detectives and myself are in contact via text, via email, we exchange crime reports every day, so it’s an ongoing thing on a daily basis – not just when something occurs.”
By communicating with each other, the departments can relay information that could be useful in ongoing crime investigations. Takoma Park saw a string of similar incidents in December, and according to Ricucci, information from the MPD led to an arrest.
“There’s an outstanding working relationship between the jurisdictions,” he says. “It’s the best I’ve seen and I’ve been in this business for 43 years.”
Communication among the departments, the citizens and with each other is necessary in making sure important information gets to the right people so police can make arrests. “We’re all a part of a border community and we all need to look out for each other because crime knows no boundaries,” said Glass, “and regardless of which zip code we live in we are all a part of the same community.”