Trends in Crime and Public Safety in 2010
Pedestrian safety and reducing crimes of opportunity remain priorities for city police
Times are tough. Traffic is bad. And teenage bullying is sometimes taking on violent new dimensions.
Rockville Police Chief Terrance N. Treschuk talked about crime trends in and around the city and described developments in public safety during 2010 in an interview with Rockville Patch. Patch lists the top five trends here.
1) Crimes of opportunity.
"In public safety, I think in the last year one of the trends that we've seen is certainly a much higher level of opportunistic thievery," said Treschuk, who has been Rockville's police chief since 1989. "And that's the theft from automobiles. The high-priced items that are kept in automobiles now such as GPS systems and really good sound systems, radio systems, iPods, iPads, things like that. People have a tendency to forget to take them out of their cars."
One tack to reducing thefts from automobiles, Treschuk said, is spreading "information and awareness" of the importance of locking cars and removing valuables. "And the other side of that is you have to report it. And sometimes people just say 'It was my fault for not locking my doors, so I'm not going to report it.'"
2) Assaults among juveniles.
"I think we all have some concerns about the rise in juvenile-type assaults, assaults on one another," Treschuk said.
It is a crime trend that police have seen increase in recent years.
"You see teenager upon teenager, trying to get a cell phone from someone," he said. "Or trying to get an iPod. People actually coming up and bullying and intimidating someone to the point of saying 'Give me your money. Give me you iPod.'"
It's troubling, and often involves a victim being punched or kicked, before having their property taken, Treschuk said.
"It's not skyrocketed, but you see an ever-increasing amount of reported issues like that," he said. "Once again, I think it comes down to the opportunity-type crimes, where you have people with expensive items that people are carrying. Phones are expensive; iPods, iPads — they're all expensive items. And opportunity knocks for the criminal type or the person who is a have-not and wants to have."
Overall, the city has seen a decline in so-called Part I crimes such as murder, assault, burglary and arson, even as city police have seen an increase in overall calls for service, Treschuk said.
3) More information and communication.
"One of the better things that have happened in all of policing over the last couple of years has been a higher level of communication, cooperation, information sharing, not only on the local level with our municipal and county [agencies] but on a state level and on the federal level," Treschuk said.
Information about crime trends is shared daily--and in some cases in real-time--across jurisdictional boundaries. Police use in-car computers that allow officers to receive emails while they're in the field.
"We've got a wealth of information out there," Treschuk said. "The trick now is just how to keep up with it."
Part of the focus on information flow has been the emphasis on interoperability that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"That's a real big part," Treschuk said. "Interoperability--communications, the ability for all of us to talk with each other."
The county has "a fairly modern radio system" that it is looking to upgrade over the next four or five years to allow county police, county sheriffs, municipal agencies and fire and rescue personnel to continue to communicate with each other and with neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland and the District of Columbia as they do now.
Meanwhile, the county's Emergency Communications Center allows jurisdictions around the county to send representatives to "a central focus report" in the event of a manmade or natural disaster — such as last winter's blizzard — in order to get real-time information to public safety agencies as well as public works and other departments.
"That's a great model that's been worked on," Treschuk said.
4) Emergency preparedness.
"We've seen a big increase in emergency preparedness, homeland security training and preparation," Treschuk said. "I've got bookcases full of continuity of operations plans for the City of Rockville."
That includes memorandums of understanding between the city, county and state on sharing public infrastructure and equipment in emergencies.
Public safety agencies have also engaged in a number of "practice scenarios" with city, county and state agencies and with other jurisdictions who are members of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
"You do it at all different levels to see where you fit into play so that on a public safety end we all know what the other hands are doing," Treschuk said.
5) Pedestrian and bicycle safety.
"A big concern in the City of Rockville, and certainly in the whole area here is pedestrian safety and bicycle safety," Treschuk said. "We've had some tragedies in and outside the city of pedestrians being struck and fatalities."
City police have responded with "major internal programs" including information sharing about dangerous roads and intersections. The department has also shot public service announcements for Rockville 11 about how to safely cross streets, while the city has upgraded crosswalks and traffic lights and offered brochures at libraries, recreation centers and schools focusing on pedestrian safety.
A big concern for police is the morning rush, particularly between 7:10 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.
"We have people at bus stops all around the city going to high schools, middle schools and elementary schools," Treschuk said. "We have people walking to high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. This is the exact same time that you have the crunch of commuters."
As main roads such as Veirs Mill Road, Rockville Pike and Interstate 270 become clogged the tendency of motorists is to cut through residential neighborhoods.
"Well as you get into the communities, you come to intersections and there's 15, 7, 20 kids at a corner waiting at a corner. And kids are kids. They're pushing each other. They're playing around. And if people don't pay particular attention at the stop signs and everything we could have a real tragedy. So we try to monitor that on a daily basis."