Friday, July 11, 2014

Police Update

The following is a letter from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander, Montgomery County Police 2nd District:

Dear Residents of the 2nd District:

It’s been a few months and I wanted to share some updates from the 2nd District…

Traffic:

Many thanks to those of you who have managed to work your way around the Cedar Lane closures. I understand that this has been an inconvenience, but the project is a priority for the State Highway Administration (SHA) and it will hopefully be completed prior to the beginning of the next school year. Starting July 13th, SHA will begin a nighttime re-paving project of Wisconsin Ave. between Bradley Blvd. and Old Georgetown Rd. You will experience lane closures between 9pm and 5am.

Officers from the 2nd District won the recent Commander’s Challenge for seatbelt enforcement with the issuance of over 1,100 citations in just three weeks. It is hard to believe in this day and age that some people still refuse to wear their seatbelts. Time and time again throughout my career I have witnessed lives saved by simply buckling up. The fine did increase this year from $25 to $83 so hopefully this will finally convince those hold-out’s to buckle up. I have also noticed that many drivers can be seen holding their cell phone in their hand while driving down the road and using the speakerphone. This is against the law! The cell phone cannot be in your hand while the car is in motion – period! As far as texting, if your car is on the roadway, you cannot write, read or send a text message even if you are stopped. Our officers our still enforcing these laws so please share this information with your family members to keep us all safer on the roads.

Crime:

Just recently, officers from the 2nd District received a call for a bank robbery in the Kensington area. The area was quickly locked down and a suspect was found hiding in a shed in a backyard by one of our K-9 units a short time later. This suspect was responsible for not only the Kensington robbery, but also for one bank robbery in the Bethesda business district and two others in Potomac. This was outstanding work by our officers to get this dangerous criminal off the streets.

As expected, property crimes such as burglaries and thefts from auto tend to rise during the summer months. This year has been no different. In June, the 2nd District experienced 102 thefts from cars. Of these 102, 81 (or 79%) were unlocked. On the ones were force was used, it was normally because valuables were seen in plain view in the car. The most targeted items continue to be wallets, purses, cell phones, laptops, glasses and other small valuables. I cannot stress enough the importance of locking your cars and removing valuables and anything that appears to be of value. While you may not think anything of leaving a laptop case on your front seat, someone that is intent on stealing from cars, especially in darkness, sees that case and thinks there is a laptop inside. They will risk making noise by breaking a window to get into your vehicle. We did make two arrests in June, but so far in July we have had 23 additional incidents.

Some other safety points to consider are:

1. Close and lock your garage doors, especially at night. We have experienced several incidents where items from garages such as bicycles have been stolen overnight.

2. Do not leave a spare car key inside or on your car. We average about eight stolen autos per month. In June, there were seventeen events. Of these seventeen, five were stolen by using a key that was left inside the vehicle. We recently made two separate arrests of car thieves so hopefully that will reduce our numbers. So far in July, we have had no further incidents.

3. Please call 911 immediately for a crime in progress, or our non-emergency number 301-279-800 for a suspicious situation such as an unfamiliar person with a backpack on your street late at night (theft from autos). Let us come and investigate and determine if this person is supposed to be there or not.

Just recently, the 2nd District launched our latest crime-fighting venture called the District Community Action team (DCAT). This is a group of highly motivated uniformed officers that are assigned to work hot spots. They are not normally assigned routine calls for service, although they help out when call volume is high. Earlier this week, an alert resident dialed 911 when he observed his car being broken into. DCAT responded quickly, set up a perimeter, and apprehended both suspects. This week, they have been asked to be a visible deterrent in neighborhoods experiencing a rise in thefts from autos. I am very excited about this unit, so please call or e-mail me if you feel there is a problem in your community where they may help. I meet weekly with my undercover team, detectives, petty crimes unit and DCAT to review the latest crime trends and develop tactical deployment strategies for the upcoming week.

As always, it is up to both of us to do our parts to minimize crime in the 2nd District. I promise to make the best use of my resources and deploy them where they are most needed. I need you to get better at practicing personal safety prevention like locking your cars, houses and garages if you are one of the many that still do not do that.

Thank you for your time. Let’s close out summer together by bringing our theft from autos and thefts of cars down to more acceptable numbers.

Captain David Falcinelli, Commander

2nd District

240-773-6700

 

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cedar Lane to Close June 6

The State Highway Administration (SHA) will be closing a 1,000 foot section of Cedar Lane in Bethesda, starting 12:01 AM Friday morning June 6 through mid-August. SHA must close Cedar Lane between Rockville Pike and Elmhirst Parkway (at the Stone Ridge School) in order to replace aging pipes that run underneath Cedar Lane.
This is part of a larger project to make urgently needed improvements to the intersection of Rockville Pike (MD 355) at Cedar Lane. When it is completed, this project will make the intersection function better and more safely for vehicles and pedestrians. This project is one of several designed to improve roads, transit, bike and pedestrian facilities around the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and National Institutes of Health.
PLAN YOUR SUMMER ROUTE! Cedar Lane won’t be an option between Bethesda and points to the east between June 6 and mid-August. Here is a link to SHA’s prescribed detours around the work zone:
SCHOOLS: The closure will affect school transportation in the last week of Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as MCPS summer programs. MCPS signed off on the June 6 closure to help ensure that Cedar Lane would re-open prior to the opening of schools on August 25. MCPS will alter affected bus routes during the road closure; families will be notified of route changes.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

White Flint - What's in a name?

Note: This post was updated on May 20.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee is working hard towards a destination website that will feature listings of shops, eateries, events, and places to live in the White Flint Sector Plan area.  

The biggest challenge ahead is how to move forward with promoting the area while there isn't complete agreement on what to call it. 


Is it Rockville, Bethesda North, the Pike, Metro White Flint, or something else? It seems everyone has an opinion as evidenced by the comments section of a recent article in the Washington Post.


Take our survey and tell us what you think the area around the White Flint Metro Station should be called.


The survey is now closed.  Results can be viewed here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

County DOT Reaches Out to Bethesda Neighborhoods on Pedestrian Safety

The following is text of a letter sent to Bethesda neighborhood leaders.

As part of County Executive Ike Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has been focusing on “High Incidence Areas” (HIAs) for pedestrian collisions. With the significant level of pedestrian traffic in Downtown Bethesda, it is probably no surprise to you that your community is one of these HIAs – areas of the County with the highest rates of pedestrian crashes. Over the last year and half, MCDOT has been working with a group of fabulous volunteers in the Wheaton area, who have helped us spread the word to the community about how to be a safe pedestrian, and how drivers can keep pedestrians safe. We began to form a similar group in Bethesda last fall. We are now looking forward to expanding this group of volunteers, and in working with the local community to spread the word about how to keep pedestrians safe. 

The County’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative uses a three-pronged approach that coordinates Engineering, Education, and Enforcement with the intention of influencing pedestrian and driver behavior. We have already begun working with a group of students and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School through the Walk Your Way grant program, and are looking forward to efforts there. We also partner with Montgomery County Police, and you may have noticed that officers are in the community ticketing drivers and pedestrians who do not follow the law.

We would love to partner with you to spread our important message to your community, and we hope that you are interested in working with us. Here are some ways we can work together on this effort:

  • We are developing and will soon be sending along a social media toolkit, which will include pedestrian safety themed Facebook posts, Tweets, and e-mail messages that can be sent out to your community.
  • If you have well-attended resident meetings, we are happy to come out and speak to your group about pedestrian safety.
  • If you have children in the local schools, we would love to get connected with your PTA and/or school administrators to identify opportunities to educate kids and parents about important safety tips.
  • Please consider volunteering with us! We will be at several local special events this Spring, including Strut Your Mutt and Imagination Bethesda, and would love to have community volunteers help with these efforts. We also offer SSL hours for middle and high school students who participate in our programs.
  • You can learn more about our program by visiting our website: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/walk. We will be in touch in the very near future, but in the meantime please feel free to contact us directly with questions, to sign up for volunteering, or with suggestions for how we might reach your community.

We look forward to working with you!

Jeff Dunckel

Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Coordinator

Jeff.Dunckel (at) montgomerycountymd.gov

Joana Conklin

Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Education Specialist

Joana.Conklin (at) montgomerycountymd.gov

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Western Montgomery County CAB Testimony on FY-15 Operating Budget

The following testimony is from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board to the County Council concerning the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. This testimony was given on April 9th, 2014:


Council President Rice and Councilmembers, my name is Jad Donohoe.  I am the chair of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. 
Thank you for this opportunity to present our views on the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. 
The Board recognizes that the County is emerging from a difficult time in which you have had to close a series of budget gaps caused by the troubled economic landscape. As we restore budgets and programs, we urge caution and careful deliberation.
With this in mind, we encourage you to look for opportunities for existing programs to operate more efficiently and to find savings through shared investments and coordination across multiple agencies.  Specifically, we suggest a multi-agency task force be convened to identify such opportunities. 
We also wanted to call your attention to funding for programs which our Board hears about most often from our west county neighborhoods: specifically, improved funding for Public Libraries, Regional Services Centers (RSCs), School Resource Officers (SROs), Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, Bikeshare, Ride-On and Master Plans.
Public Libraries
We support the County Executive’s recommended increase in funding for Public Libraries.
·        The circulation of traditional books has not diminished and the demand for e-books has skyrocketed. 
·        We regularly hear requests for additional evening and weekend library hours.  Particularly in our more urbanized areas, evening library hours can play a significant role in the “Nighttime Economy.”
·        With this increased use comes a need for adequate funds for cleaning and maintenance.
Regional Services Centers (RSCs)
We urge you to add additional funds above the County Executive’s recommended budget for Regional Services Centers in order to restore full-time administrative support in each RSC.  We applaud the recent relocation of some part-time administrative support, but a full-time admin is needed at each RSC.
·        For many County residents and community organizations, the RSCs are their connection to County government and the proof that government is available and responsive to their concerns.  
·        Without adequate administrative support on site at the RSCs, time that RSC directors spend engaging with the community is spent on administrative tasks like scheduling and building management issues.  
·        Running the RSCs on a skeleton crew fails to leverage the significant capital and operating investment we have made in the RSCs, and it limits the work that RSCs can do - a problem recently highlighted by the 2014 Committee Evaluation and Review Board recommendations.
School Resource Officers (SROs)
We enthusiastically support the County Executive’s recommendation for two additional School Resource Officers.  We are very supportive of this program, and welcome this additional funding.
Pedestrian Safety
The Board applauds the County’s emphasis on pedestrian safety.  We encourage you to continue the high level of support for pedestrian awareness education – including enforcement against drivers who ignore marked crosswalks.
Bikeshare and Bikelanes
We thank you for the recent roll out of Capital Bikeshare in the County.
·        We encourage you to consider additional funds to connect up the system in Bethesda with that in Rockville by adding multiple new bikeshare stations in the growing areas of Twinbrook and White Flint.
·        We also urge additional bikelanes and bike trails, and maintenance of the existing network. Like all networks, our network of bikelanes and bikeshare stations become more useful and usable as they increase in size.
Ride-On
We support the continued investment in Ride-On and ask that the County consider ways to make transit smarter, including:
·        Real-time tracking and mapping of bus routes
·        Free service within 1/2 mile of urban metro stations (to reduce traffic and aid the nighttime economy)
·        New or expanded routes that more directly connect our urban areas to one another including Friendship Heights/Bethesda, Bethesda/White Flint, and White Flint/Twinbrook.
Master Plans
We applaud the ongoing review of the Downtown Bethesda Master Plan. We urge you to fund the review of the Westbard Sector Plan (our County’s oldest Sector Plan), and the White Flint II Plan, which will guide development in the area between the emerging urban centers of White Flint and Twinbrook.
We appreciate your consideration of these points as you review the FY2015 budget. Thank you.
Jad Donohoe, WMCCAB Chair 

White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Testimony on FY15 Operating Budget

The following testimony is from the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to the County Council concerning the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. This testimony was given on April 9th, 2014:


Good afternoon, President Rice and Councilmembers.  My name is Francine Waters and I am presenting this testimony as Chair of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee (WFDAC) was established by the County Council to:


•        Advise County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan area,
•        Coordinate activities that promote and advance business interests and a sense of sense of community within the area,
•        Advise the County Executive and County Council on the eventual establishment of an Urban District.
The Committee is focused on accomplishing the tasks before us and greatly appreciates the support provided by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.  With their help, we have completed several initial tasks, including:
•        Developed a retail/restaurant directory
•        Created a map of development projects (which has been viewed more than 18,000 times in the past year.)
•        Drafted a history of the White Flint area.
Other short range projects, which will enhance & improve the White Flint Business district, while leading towards our long range goal of the establishing an urban district, are in progress:
•        A beautification pilot in which property owners will improve the appearance of Rockville Pike.  This builds on the existing weekend maintenance crew - managed by BCC Regional Services Center and the Department of Corrections - which has done an outstanding job in “cleaning up” White Flint. 
•        Establishing a single destination portal for the “business district” which contains retail, housing, events, and development activity information.
•        A review of management and funding options for a future Urban Services District.
We greatly appreciate the $20,000 in funds you provided in the FY14 budget which makes these projects possible.
We believe that much can be accomplished with a modest investment of public funds. 
In this spirit, we are requesting a modest increase ($75,000) in the FY15 budget for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center for the following needs that will improve the appearance and sense of community in White Flint:
•        Development of White Flint streetscape guidelines, perhaps through an Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel ($20,000).  Urban streetscape standards have yet to be developed.  This funding will help create standards for lanterns, benches, and sidewalks in the “in between” blocks that connect anticipated development.
•        Additional contract support for promotional activities and coordination of maintenance activities. ($35,000)  These funds will help improve the engagement of local business and residents, promote existing activities and events, and enhanced maintenance needs.
•        Spot improvements to the appearance of the Public Right-of-Way. ($20,000) 
The members of the WFDAC are happy to serve the County by representing the views and concerns of the communities of White Flint.  We look forward to continuing to advise the County Executive and County Council in FY15.
Thank you for considering our testimony.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Public Safety Update

Below is a crime update from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander of the 2nd Police District serving the communities of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, North Bethesda, and Potomac.


While we continue to be fortunate in the 2nd District and the County with generally decreasing crime rates, the past year has had some significant events which I wanted to bring to your attention, as many closures have been made.

On November 25, 2013, homeowners behind the Wildwood Shopping Center were victims of an armed home invasion. Videos of the suspects were obtained at a nearby business immediately after the event and shared with the public soon after. One of two suspects was identified as Gary J. Lee Thomas of Upper Marlboro. Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and he was recently arrested in D.C. on an unrelated charge. He will be transported to Montgomery County for service of that warrant after his release from DC custody. The second suspect is still unknown.

On March 13, 2014, a resident of Chevy Chase had her car taken at gunpoint. Two days later, this car was involved in a pursuit by U.S. Park Police officers in DC where shots were fired. One of these occupants, David Joel Sutton of DC, was determined to be responsible for the original carjacking and warrants are now on file for him which will be served upon his release from US Park Police custody.

Just last week, two suspects broke into a residence in Chevy Chase. After police were alerted, the suspects were spotted nearby and one was arrested after a lengthy foot pursuit. The suspect that was captured has been identified as Michael Keith Muschette of DC. The investigation into the identification of the second suspect is continuing.

All of these suspects live outside of Montgomery County but chose to commit their crimes here. I cannot stress enough that you know your neighbors and your neighborhoods better than anyone else, and you must be our eyes and our ears. If you see someone not familiar to your neighborhood acting in a suspicious manner, please make note of a description of the person and/or any associated vehicle and call our non-emergency number 301-279-8000. Your phone call may help us prevent a crime from occurring and/or discourage these criminals from coming back to Montgomery County. As we move into Spring and hopefully warmer temperatures, there will most likely be more criminal activity especially with suspects breaking into cars.  Call us immediately and we will respond as soon as possible to investigate. Please remember to lock your cars and remove any items of value or those that appear to be of value (such as a laptop case).  Do not leave spare keys on or inside your vehicles.

On a traffic safety note, officers from the 2nd District are conducting aggressive enforcement of cell phone and texting laws. Traffic officers issued 31 tickets in under one hour today and will continue to do enforcement operations to make our roads safer. One crash on a major artery during rush hour makes life miserable for the rest of us using that road. Is that text or call really that important to risk your life and the lives of other drivers? Remember – it is against the law for a driver to use their hands to use a handheld telephone while the motor vehicle is in motion. HANDS FREE AT ALL TIMES WHEN THE CAR IS IN MOTION. Contrary to popular belief, holding a phone in your hand and using the speakerphone is a violation if the car is in motion. READING/WRITING/SENDING texts or other electronic messages is against the law while the car is in the travelled portion of the roadway regardless of whether it is in motion or stopped. Please share this information with your children as I will be asking officers to step up enforcement operations near our schools also.

Thanks for doing your part to keep our neighborhoods, roads and families safe. Please call me if you have any concerns.

Captain David Falcinelli
Commander – 2nd District