Leggett's proposed budget includes additional funds for Silver Spring police district
$2.9M increase would help pay for extra coverage of county's busiest district
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's 2012 budget proposal Tuesday included a $2.9 million increase in funds to the Silver Spring police district, which is the busiest in the county, according to council members and police.
In the proposal, the funding would translate to about five additional police positions working 24/7 across the district, said County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring. If the funding is approved, it would come as a welcome boost to residents living in the county's busiest police district, especially in the Briggs Chaney area of Silver Spring, she said.
"That Briggs Chaney area is considered the No. 1 crime hotspot in the county," Navarro said. "I believe that this is a good beginning to strengthen what is needed."
Of the 241,639 calls dispatched by police countywide in 2010, a total of 49,291 about 20 percent were dispatched in the Silver Spring district, said county police spokeswoman Lucille Baur, making Silver Spring the busiest of the county's six police districts last year.
Councilman Phil Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, also voiced support for the measure but was unable to say how the funding would be implemented in light of the $300 million budget shortfall faced by the county in 2012. The proposed budget still needs to be discussed and approved by the County Council.
A typical county police officer costs the county about $100,000 a year, including salary and benefits, Andrews said. That means Leggett's proposal could add as many as 24 officers to the district. This would equate to about five officers working the district around the clock, he said.
County spokesman Patrick Lacefield could not provide exact details on how the proposal will be implemented, but he did indicate that many of the officers will likely be transferred to the district from other districts and areas of the police department, many of which will be cut in Leggett's proposal.
"There will be some cuts in some areas in order to increase funding to other areas," he said. "One of our recommendations is of course to eliminate the last nine school resource officers; now I'm not saying all those officers will be transferred to Silver Spring, but those are areas we will be looking at."
Leggett's proposal will also add several police cruisers to the Silver Spring district's fleet, Lacefield said.
Despite the uncertainty over details at this point, Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring praised the plan as a step in the right direction for the safety of residents in Silver Spring. Residents in the central business district in downtown Silver Spring have long been calling for a separate patrol to address that area, she said.
Interest in the separate central business district patrol which would consist of bicycle or foot patrol officers specifically in the area of Ellsworth Drive down to the Silver Spring Metrorail Station was again brought to the forefront of residents' minds following a violent July 12 brawl that ended in 16 arrests at the intersection of Ellsworth and Fenton Street, Ervin said.
"We took that as an opportunity to advocate for this central business district police team, but it was known that there were issues in the CBD before [that] incident even occurred," she said. "Apparently [Leggett has] put that in his budget, and I'm very happy to hear that."
A separate foot patrol was implemented in the CBD beginning July 15 and extended to last through June 2011, but the officers on that detail are working overtime, creating an expense for the department that would ultimately prove unsustainable, according to police.
The proposal comes at the same time Leggett (D) announced his intent to cut as many as 216 government jobs, of which 139 are filled, along with significant cuts to county departments across the board, including the police department.