Montgomery County Police arrested two suspects believed to be involved in a recent spike of burglaries in the Potomac area, as community members here question police response times and crime prevention efforts.
Demar Brown, born in 1984 and Jonathan Mulatu, born in 1990 were arrested Tuesday, Nov. 8, in Fairfax, Va. in connection with a burglary there, according to a police release.
According to the release, Montgomery County police received information that suspects in several Montgomery County residential burglaries were planning to target the Great Falls area of Fairfax County.
Fairfax County Police officers responded to a burglary in the alleged target area in the 9300 block of Fitz Folly Drive in Great Falls and found a front door of the home forced open. Officers chased a red minivan driving over the lawn and away from the scene at a high speed. Police said the suspects, Brown and Mulatu, fled and were arrested after a search of the area.
Police are investigating the two men and their possible involvement in several residential burglaries that occurred during the last few months in the Bethesda, Rockville and Darnestown areas of Montgomery County.
"We have charges on them and we're hoping to possibly get more charges on them," said 1st District Community Services Officer Michael Prather. "It’s still an ongoing investigation so we don't want everything out, but we did want to alert the community that we did make a lock up."
Prather would not release more information regarding the charges, but did say it was “fair to say" that the two suspects are charged with some of the burglaries in Potomac.
While police investigations continue, Potomac community members have noticed a spike in home burglaries and are joining to do something about it.
The Coalition for Concerned Citizens, lead in part by Jeff Parmet, president of the Potomac Manors Homeowners Association, formed last week in response to at least 14 residential burglaries in Potomac in October alone.
"We have experienced a significant up tick in home burglaries in the last year,” Parmet said. “I know of four in Potomac Manors."
According to the Potomac Patch posting of police crime reports, 14 burglaries and attempted burglaries were reported in October and another 10 were reported for the month of September.
“It is definitely an increase in the average number of burglaries,” Prather said. “It definitely is going on and we are definitely investigating and following our leads to put a closure to as many as possible.”
The burglaries are generally being committed during the day, according to Prather. Burglars are stealing jewelry, money and anything of value that can be taken from the house.
The coalition is concerned with two issues -- crime prevention and police follow-up. According to Parmet, it took Montgomery County police one hour and 10 minutes to respond to a home burglary alarm call after being notified. Another instance took 30 minutes.
Prather confirmed the longer response time but said the issue is being looked at internally and he wouldn’t have information to release until after the investigation.
The coalition assembled for a town hall meeting with Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-District 1) in Bethesda on Nov. 10 to bring its issues with the burglaries and police response time to the councilmember’s attention.
"Two facts are true: burglaries are on the increase and our community has the lowest crime rate, particularly our district, of any place in our county,” Berliner said to the group, which included Parmet and victims of the burglaries, adding that "to live in our community and to be in fear is simply not acceptable.”
Berliner also acknowledged that the county has been stretched financially, leading to difficulties in police staffing and resources.
"We have been stretched, fiscally, our county has made huge cuts. We haven't been able to add police, as many as we'd like," Berliner said. “Our police force, generally, is not as large as it should be for a population our size.”
The coalition is organizing a meeting to take place Dec. 7. Details of that meeting are still in the works.