Monday, October 15, 2012

Mount Rainier sees lowest number of crimes in a decade

Decrease due to active residents, enforcement, officials say

Timothy Sandoval, The Gazette

Mount Rainier’s reported crimes have dropped to their lowest point in 10 years, according to data released earlier this month by the city’s police department.

From January through September of this year, the number of reported crimes in the city was 228 — the lowest total in nearly a decade. At its highest point in 2003, the total number of crimes was 475 at the end of September, with the number jumping to 648 by the end of the year, according to the police department.

Larceny, burglary and auto theft are the crimes that have decreased the most since last year, according to the data. Crimes such as assault and robbery were up slightly compared to the same time period last year.

The next lowest total was 272 at the end of September in 2009, with the number at 370 by the end of the year, according to police.

The figure is below the 10-year average of 357 crimes committed from January to September, police said.

“People should know that Mount Rainier is a safe city and they should not worry about relocating here and starting businesses here,” said Police Chief Michael Scott. “I am very proud of that.”

The police department includes Scott and 16 officers. The city is one of the most densely populated in Maryland, with around 8,100 people living in a little over a half-square mile area. Many residents live in multifamily apartment dwellings and crime is usually high in living situations such as those, Scott said.

“Granted, we still have some problems here and there,” he said. “But we are very happy with our progress.”

Scott said the reduction in crime can be credited to the department targeting areas with a high level of crime. Police have also increased their emphasis on traffic enforcement, which he said has netted the majority of arrests for officers.

“Traffic enforcement is the key for us to be visible,” Scott said. “It tells the bad guys that cops are out there working.”

Aside from enforcement, Scott said that increased development, a higher number of businesses, and an influx of young professionals to the area has contributed to crime reduction.

Relations between the city police and residents have improved as well, Scott said.

“Our residents had a perception that if you called the police, you were bothering them,” he said. “I have said that you guys pay us to ride around out here and respond to things when you call us. You can’t bother the police.”

Community groups have sprung up across the city looking to report crimes and ensure that the city is safe, Scott said.

Mount Rainier resident Rick Ruggles said he started a community group in January 2011, which sought to clean up the city and improve safety for residents.

Ruggles schedules monthly walks with the goal of meeting new neighbors and cleaning up trash. Police officers have also joined in walks with residents, he said.

“The best way to prevent crime is to know your neighbors,” he said. “I have more awareness of who the people are around the neighborhood. Those are some of the positive effects of having a group.”

Ruggles said residents have started to be more active about reporting suspicious activity to the police.

“More people are now aware that the police do not consider their call a nuisance call,” he said.

Mount Rainier Councilwoman Ivy Thompson (Ward 2) said she thought the reduction was caused by a combination of the good police work, active citizens and development across the city.

“Any reduction is a significant accomplishment,” Thompson said. “I am very pleased with the statistics and we hope to see these numbers continue to go down.”

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