Montgomery County creating task force to tackle drug market in Silver Spring

For the past four months, Montgomery County States Attorney John McCarthy says his office and police have been working together on a task force to address an alleged open drug market operating in the vicinity of the Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring.

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The Civic Building is near an ice rink. There’s also an IMAX movie theater along with shops and restaurants across the street near Ellsworth Drive. This is a main gathering spot in Silver Spring that’s seen millions of dollars in revitalization, says McCarthy.

However, this area, like other parts of the region, has also seen an increase in crime.

For the past year, reports of carjackings, armed robberies, cars stopping traffic to perform donuts in intersections dangerously close to people and shootings have become more frequent.

Just this past Tuesday, a fatal stabbing unfolded in the middle of the day around 11:28 a.m.

Montgomery County Police responded to the scene, located just outside the Starbucks on Ellsworth Drive. Dakari Thomas, 18, was held without bond for the murder of 19-year-old Getro Banamina.

READ MORE: 18-year-old arrested, charged for stabbing death of 19-year-old in Silver Spring

Thomas’ attorney told the judge this may have been self-defense. The county prosecutor said Banamina was not armed.

Court documents and the States Attorney say the fatal stabbing was over a drug transaction with one person checking to see if what they were purchasing was real and an argument ensuing. That argument resulted in a stabbing.

It’s that activity that McCarthy said the "Crime Suppression Task Force" is working to address.

"There’s been associated businesses that have shut down as a result of theft and other things that are going down there," said McCarthy "Look, this is a great community. But we have challenges and this is a real challenge for us right now in Silver Spring, and we’re trying to work together and retake Silver Spring and make it the community that we’ve invested in."

McCarthy said in a news conference after the arraignment that the task force has helped secure 10 convictions for different crimes in the area.

Originally, McCarthy said the task force identified around 16 people associated with this alleged open drug market. More recently, he said they’re up to 21 identified suspects – many of them said to be grown men in their 30s and 40s.

READ MORE: Homicide investigation after man dead in Silver Spring; no suspects in custody

McCarthy also said the suspects are not Montgomery County residents.

McCarthy couldn’t definitely say all the mayhem seen downtown, such as the car gatherings stopping traffic for stunts, are due to this alleged open drug market. However, he did acknowledge it’s drawn in other crime.

McCarthy told FOX 5 he’s been in frequent contact with Councilmembers Sidney Katz, Tom Hucker and Gabe Albornoz, the Montgomery County Council’s Public Safety Committee members, and Dr. Earl Stoddard with the County Executive’s Office on the collaborative crime suppression effort.

"We’ve gotten guns, we’ve made armed robbery arrests, we’ve made stolen vehicle and motorcycle arrests, so they are out there, they are active, so I really appreciate their efforts, and my message to the public is we’re in the fight," said Silver Spring’s 3rd Police District Captain David McBain.

McBain told FOX 5 while police came forward with the idea for a task force, the department is still dealing with lower numbers due to higher resignations and retirements. County Executive Marc Elrich, in part of an email statement, noted he’s been supportive of using police overtime in this effort.


The Montgomery County Police Captain also said his officers are picking up a lot of guns and marijuana connected to this alleged open-air drug market.

He also said a matter concerning to him is that they’re seeing fewer groups target multiple people – and more people overall partaking in crime.