GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
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You’re all coming to the City Council Forum with The Voice and the Silver Spring Gazette, Wednesday, March 5, 7:00 p.m, right? Reporters from the Gazette and Voice will moderate a discussion with members of the City Council in the Community Center Auditorium.
The forum will be about Takoma Park issues, challenges, and opportunities. It’s a chance to get the council to chat outside the formal and compartmentalized format of city council meetings. What do you want them to talk about? Submit a question or statement to firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, contact Jessie Carpenter at JessieC@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-891-7267.
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This is what happens when Peter Franchot and his neighbors get robbed. Peter calls a meeting and EVERYBODY shows up: every police chief for 20 miles, state delegates, the county executive, city council members, and the mayor. Now, that’s constituent service! (See the Voice’s coverage by Mike Persley)
Did we mention that Peter Franchot is the Maryland Comptroller, i.e. the state treasurer, the guy you write your tax checks out to?
Peter Franchot at the podium.
Now, Peter is an upstanding guy, he’s a long-time Takoma Park resident, he was our state delegate for 20 years at a time when being from this city was more of a political demerit than the advantage it now seems to be. He’s hauled many wagon-loads of bacon back to Takoma Park, bless his heart. Notably, he stood up to the current governor on legalizing casino gambling. We’re just saying that as Comptroller, he’s got a bit more clout than the average citizen.
The eight police chiefs persuaded to attend looked a little uncomfortable at times as the Sycamore Avenue Crime Victims Group described their experiences, which included a carjacking and a robbery at gun-point, and their frustration that the chiefs, as they saw it, were not working together enough to stop this cross-jurisdictional crime spree.
The top cops were sympathetic, but their response amounted to “We are TOO working together enough.”
As to the white paper presented by the resident’s group, the chiefs said they are already doing a lot of the stuff it suggested.
This being Takoma Park it wasn’t long before people pointed out that it was an overwhelmingly white crowd, both in the audience and on the dais. The white paper was aptly named.
Terrell North at the podium.
Terrill North, board-member of Man-Up (and also county District 5 candidate), a group that works with at-risk youth, brought in a group of them to observe for awhile. Afterwards, he came to the podium to pass on their comments – that it was a very white crowd, and how did they get all these important people to listen to them? The youth told him they each had worse stories of crime victimization, yet they got no such attention.
You just need to live on Sycamore Avenue, kids.
The white paper and several speakers did call for crime prevention programs, and a couple of people cautioned against racial profiling. One person called for “dollar-for-dollar” spending on law enforcement and crime prevention.
Frothing civil libertarians
About this white paper. For sure the proposals in it are going to come up at council.
They knew from the start that their suggestions will set local civil liberties fanatics frothing. “We hope that Takoma Park residents’ concerns about national and international security agencies will not prevent any consideration of crime reduction strategies in our own back yard.” it says before proposing security cameras and more license plate scanners. Yeah, good luck with that.
Why, asked one resident, were the Takoma Park police dumping license plate scanner data after 30 days, when the other jurisdictions held it much longer?
Er, said the mayor, glancing sideways at the State Police chief, at the time the state police had just been caught spying on left-wing political groups in Takoma Park.
Sycamore Avenue Crime Victims Group member addresses the panel. Comptroller Franchot at right.
The proposals take us on a hike into a civil-liberties mine field. The best way to make those technologies work is to share information gathered via them with other jurisdictions. The license scanners, for example, only catch crooks when they have access to a data base of crook’s license plate numbers. As mentioned above, Takoma Park dumps its data after 30 days. If the city starts sharing that data (which would include data about the automobile movements of innocent Takoma Park residents AND possibly undocumented non-residents) we don’t know how it will be used or how far it will go. Or what agencies will get it – ICE for example.
But, forget civil liberties, this report makes a red-cape waving suggestion sure to provoke bull-like rage throughout the city: street closures. Oh. My. God. The recent temporary no-left-turn onto Ritchie Avenue from Maple nearly led to combat. Here we go again! Start digging foxholes!
Their suggestions for an independent review and for improved citizen/cop relations might get more traction. But, labeling the latter “customer service” as they do in the white paper is not likely to go well with the police. Espeically since they claim “the Police Department often gives the impression that they do not take resident’ questions and comments seriously.”
We’ve experienced and heard of the police essentially scolding victims for not better securing homes, vehicles, or belongings. As one Sycamore Avenue resident said, this amounts to “a second victimizing.”
The panel of police chiefs or representatives, Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams, and Comptroller Franchot.
Perhaps a review should look into giving police officers longer vacations. It must have an effect on individual officers – constantly going from victim to victim, seeing the number of victims increase, but also seeing how little public awareness increases. Maybe that’s why so many victims get a “well, what did you expect?” response. A natural reaction, yes, but not a professional one. Surely, they’ve been trained not to blame the victim, even if they think otherwise? Is this is symptom of police burn-out or frustration?
Two days after this meeting, Takoma Park’s Chief Goldberg announced that the Sycamore Avenue carjacker suspect was arrested.
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