Upsurge in gang activity leads to more resources for schools
Gang-related homicide has increased tenfold in Montgomery County over the past year. In response, the county has allocated more resources to combat the increase in gang violence.
The State Attorney’s Office reported in the Washington Post that there were no gang-related homicides in 2011 and between 2012 and 2014 there was only one per year. However, by mid-2015, the gang-related deaths spiked up to 15. The Montgomery County Police Department 2016 Annual Report states that there were a total of 30 homicides in 2015. In 2015, gang-related deaths accounted for half the total number of homicides in the county.
Last year, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger told Fox News that the department were “looking at 20 gang-related murder cases and there [were] still more than two months left in 2017.”
When addressing gang activity, Manger emphasized the Montgomery County Police Department’s (MCPD) collaboration with partners in MCPS, Montgomery County State’s Attorney Office, Montgomery County Health and Human Services, and the Montgomery County Recreation Department to “employ a multi-faceted approach, which includes prevention, intervention, and suppression.”
Manger personally reaches out to high school students in discussion groups with his new “Chillin’ with Chief” initiative.
MCPD’s Gang Unit educates school resource officers and security staff, along with participating in community initiatives “in order to educate and mentor students and young adults in our community.”
The Montgomery County Police Department and Montgomery County State Attorney’s Office were allocated $843,693 by the Montgomery County Council to help counter the increase in gang-related violent crimes. According to the Montgomery County Sentinel newspaper, this amount accounts for an expansion of the county’s police department through the opening of six new positions as well as the hiring of “three new assistant state’s attorneys to prosecute gang-related crimes.”
Humanities sophomore Hannah Kim expressed her frustrations with how the county is approaching the gang problem, stating how “most deterrents are ineffectual.”
Upon elaborating, she recalled when her middle school “banned hair bands because [they] promoted gang violence.” Kim proposed taking more preemptive measures by “treating the cause and not the symptoms.”
PHS security team leader James “Skip” Etheridge stated that if a Montgomery County Public School sees one of their students as a member of a gang, action cannot be taken against them solely based on their affiliations. “MCPS doesn’t have an established suspension policy [if the school] finds out that you are a gang member,” Etheridge said.
In terms of how MCPS cooperates with local and federal units, Ethridge said in a statement, “[MCPS security] meets with Montgomery County gang coordinators twice a year. The gang coordinators tell MCPS security about any gang activity in our communities. They talk to us about any gangs that they have information about in their respective schools and communities.”
“Sometimes [Montgomery County gang coordinators] gives us pictures of gang members, [which are readily available on the Internet for everyone to access],” added Etheridge.
Two MS-13 gang members were charged in the grisly murder of a Silver Spring man last September. Earlier in the year in January of 2017, a Gaithersburg teenager was tortured and subsequently stabbed to death by a member of MS-13. The resurgence of the ethnic gang MS-13 in the county has prompted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to arrest six alleged MS-13 members out of the 35 arrested in Maryland between October and November of last year, according to the Bethesda Magazine.
“ICE is a federal agency with their own set of standards,” said Etheridge in an interview earlier this week. “Montgomery County is not a conduit; we do not typically contact federal authorities on immigration issues.”