ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County officials said the gang problem in the county has become so bad that they have to try something new. The county is spending $846,000 for a new effort to fight a gang problem that is aimed at expanding the police's gang unit, targeting gang leaders and having more officers in the schools to fight gang recruitment.
"When you see the recent rise in crime at the level and the extent to which you see it, new strategies are called for and new approaches are called for when you see this, and I think what we are doing here today is trying to respond to what our recent changes in trends, particularly in the homicide rate," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.
How bad is the gang murder rate? Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said in the past two years, they would average one to two gang-related murders a year in the county.
But now, Manger said they are looking at 20 gang-related murder cases and there are still more than two months left in 2017.
This new surge will focus on gang hotspots areas like Germantown, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring and Wheaton. There is also a new team of Montgomery County school resource officers, which are going to be deployed in schools to help cut off gang recruiting.
While county officials stressed they have very good relationship with federal officials, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has put Montgomery County on a list of jurisdictions that ignores ICE detainer requests.
We asked Chief Manger if this new effort includes fostering a better relationship with ICE. He said his focus is instead on the Justice Department, which actually prosecutes criminal gang cases.
"I think that what we are talking about when we talk about our federal partners is the U.S. Attorney's Office," said Manger. "Where we rely on them is to assist with prosecutions and there are times when a federal prosecution is going to be much more effective than one we do at state levels."
ICE said in a statement to FOX 5:
"Montgomery County does not consistently honor ICE's detainer requests and denies ICE officers access to jails to interview suspected immigration violators without ICE coordinating with the jail ahead of time and the jail granting permission."