We all deserve to feel and be safe. That means both safe from crime in our communities and safe in interactions with law enforcement. The challenge is how we come together to make safety for all a reality. While the number of homicides went down by about half in 2022, recent homicides in White Oak and Silver Spring, carjackings in places we frequent and a rise in hate crimes have understandably shaken residents and raised concerns about the lack of a plan moving forward. 

I share these concerns and believe there is a need for the County Executive and County Council to be proactive and inclusive in putting forth a plan to address community safety holistically. 

Law enforcement is essential, but safety is about more than law enforcement. True community safety requires an intentional focus on the intersections of mental health, jobs, housing, resources and cultural proficiency to address crime, expand opportunity and build public trust in our institutions. This must be a collective effort that includes government, law enforcement and community partners. 

Indeed, Governor Wes Moore made this point in his Inaugural speech, “We do not have to choose between being a safe state and a just state. Maryland can, and we will, be both.” 

For Montgomery County to be safe and just, the County Executive, County Council and law enforcement must collaborate to detail a plan for moving forward, including short-term strategies to address violent crime and public safety needs. The goals and objectives must be communicated to the public, with regular updates from the County Executive to ensure that we are all on the same page regarding efforts underway. We must reassure the public regarding the county’s vigilance regarding crime and engage residents in strategies to help uplift all communities. 

First, a community safety plan should make clear what the county is and will be doing urgently to address recent rises in crime. For example, common sense improvements that are underway or under discussion include improving lighting, adding cameras to public garages, strategically deploying law enforcement to crime hot spots, increased community engagement and exploring an additional district police station. 


The progress on this work should be as transparent as possible, and the public should be invited to share their ideas for improving community safety in the short-term in their own neighborhoods. 

Additionally, the plan should outline efforts to achieve the long-term holistic improvements necessary to address the root causes of crime. At a recent community forum on public safety in White Oak, we discussed the need for more job training and re-entry programs, mental health resources and affordable housing. We also need improved engagement with the private sector to ensure their concerns and ideas are heard, as I have done by facilitating dialogue between businesses in Silver Spring and county government, including law enforcement. 

Second, a holistic vision for public safety must include continuing our work to ensure that law enforcement is well trained, accountable and focused on urgent safety issues. Like addressing crime, this will only be achieved through a collaborative effort where differences in perspectives are shared in good faith and with respect, even when we disagree. To me, the work of improving policing means focusing on three pillars, as I have discussed in the past: (1) changing hiring practices; (2) changing what police track, prioritize, and reward; and (3) improving transparency and accountability. 


The previous council took positive steps in addressing all three pillars. For example, we required independent investigations after officer-involved deaths, raised the standard of when deadly force can be used and most recently passed legislation I spearheaded, the Community Informed Police Training Act, which requires an additional week of training for MCPD officers in collaboration with local educational partners like Montgomery College on topics related to socially just policing, communication skills and community engagement. Police departments across the country, including ours, are facing recruitment challenges, and this improved training will make our police department an even more attractive employer for those looking for meaningful and essential work. 

By charting a clear path forward, addressing community needs, and ensuring our law enforcement is well trained, appropriately focused and accountable, I’m confident we can prevent crime, build community trust and increase safety for all.

Will Jawando is an at-large, Democratic member of the Montgomery County Council.


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