Citizens and local leaders generate action plans
The Safe Silver Spring Summit, for residents and community leaders to propose solutions for making neighborhoods safer, was held at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus of Montgomery College on May 16, according to Tony Hausner, the chairman of the steering committee.
According to Hausner, numerous local organizations formed the committee last November to plan the summit. He said that the murder of Blair freshman Tai Lam last November, the fight at the Stop the Violence concert in Silver Spring in March and local neighborhoods' concerns about significant crime increases in 2008 necessitated the creation of the summit.
In each of the two sessions, after hearing overview presentations from community leaders including Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) Lieutenant Paul Liquorie and Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, attendees went to one of six 1.5-hour workshops led by experts in each workshop subject. The workshops covered a variety of topics, including gangs and pack robberies, truancy and the creation of safe and civilized public spaces.
After discussions among community members and experts during the simultaneous workshops, each group presented its top recommendations for action. Priorities included improving environmental design in public places, better delivery of crime deterrence information and early education of students about truancy.
Hausner said that while the committee will have to decide next year if another summit is appropriate, he plans to have more community meetings and to put together an organization that would permanently work on implementing the recommendations. "This is not just a one-time gathering," Hausner said. "We will do something to build upon what we've done." Truancy workshop members have already agreed to meet again in the future, making a six-month commitment toward implementing their ideas, said Maura Lynch of the State's Attorney's Office in Montgomery County during a workshop report.
Despite large crime increases in individual neighborhoods in 2008, there was an overall decrease in total crime this year. "I think crime may have actually leveled off this winter," Hausner said. During an overview presentation, Liquorie affirmed a drop in crime in Silver Spring. Despite a 1.4 percent increase in total crime from 2007 to 2008, crime has decreased 23.9 percent since 2008, based on MCPD's preliminary statistics for 2009.
Delegate Tom Hucker, who represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park in the Maryland General Assembly, attended the Safe Silver Spring Summit and said it served as a way to educate and involve the whole community. He emphasized safety as a priority for public officials, noting that other issues like improving schools or transportation cannot be addressed until citizens feel safe. "Public safety's our number one concern," Hucker said.
Though community policing is a local initiative, he said that after the summit, his job is to coordinate the effort with the state when it provides funding and creates rules for the justice system.
Silver Spring resident and former Blair parent Tina Slater attended the summit and saw it as an unique opportunity to understand the perspective of the police and learn more about what citizens can do to help.
She said that safety is a communal effort, and if attendees bring back information to their neighborhoods and spread the word, the summit can act as a preventative measure - a sort of maintenance for the Silver Spring community. "I think it's a great place to live," she said. "If we all work together, we can make things safer and keep things at bay."
For a copy of the report from the Safe Silver Spring Summit, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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