Montgomery County officials, business leaders and police officers gathered in downtown Silver Spring on Wednesday morning to launch the Silver Spring Safety Alliance, an initiative to facilitate greater collaboration between local businesses and law enforcement at time of heightened community concern about public safety. The event was staged in front of the Wayne Avenue parking garage where a 62-year-old man was found fatally shot in December.
“Safety is a shared goal that requires strong collaboration and partnerships,” Police Chief Marcus Jones said, adding that police are continuing to successfully deter crime and ensure safety “through forged relationships of trust” with the Silver Spring community.
The alliance was spearheaded by the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce with the support of the local police department. Chamber president and CEO Stephanie Helsing said it will develop an email list for business and property owners to quickly share information with each other about incidents, trainings and more. Through the alliance, the chamber will also facilitate quarterly safety briefings in collaboration with the police department’s 3rd District.
The chamber will provide window clings for all downtown Silver Spring businesses to display on their property to signal their affiliation with the alliance and attempt to deter criminal activity, according to Helsing. Signage will also be posted in downtown Silver Spring’s central areas of business to identify them as a Silver Spring Safety Alliance “business watch area,” she said.
County officials in attendance at the launch event included District 4’s councilmember Kate Stewart (D), county Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard and Silver Spring Regional Service Center director Jake Newman.
Stoddard emphasized the need for residents to take responsibility for their community’s safety and livability. “Safety is the purview of all of us,” he said. “Everyone owns safety.”
He also pointed out that beyond proactively deterring criminal activity, ensuring community safety also requires providing positive outlets for youth. Stoddard said Silver Spring officials are making plans for a new library recreation center and aquatic center downtown. He also said the county government is increasing the availability of addiction and mental health services as well as support services for houseless residents.
Stewart said she’s lived in Silver Spring for over 25 years, raised her two children in the area, and now she said she wants to ensure it remains a viable place for others to do the same.
“I really do want to make sure Silver Spring is a safe place for other families to raise their kids, too,” she said. “We’re better when we look out for each other, and that’s what creates a resilient community.”
The alliance is just one of several recent government-led efforts to curb rising crime rates in the region. On Tuesday, County Council passed a bill requiring all county businesses open between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. that sell alcohol or tobacco to develop late-night safety plans. The plans could include measures like cameras, lights, security personnel and staff training.
In late March, county officials and residents gathered for a forum and safety walk in downtown Silver Spring to discuss other increased public safety measures being considered by the police department amid a recent spate of crime, including several homicides in the downtown region.
The alliance’s first meeting will take place in June and will be a question-and-answer style forum for business owners and residents to learn more about the initiative, Helsing told MoCo360. She said more details will be made public soon.