Police and Intelligence-Community Relationships

From Aspen Hill, Maryland, USA
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Cooperation

Arguably there should be extremely strong relationships between the Montgomery County Department of Police and those elements of the US intelligence community which are chartered for in-country activities. Yet until the attacks of September 11, 2001, there had been a notable inability of various local "first responder" communities to communicate and cooperate. This was particularly notable along the District Line in Prince George's County, where failure to communicate and cooperate meant that cases that started on one side of the border came to an end when the suspects stepped across that border. Since the mid-1990s, however, increasing Federal interest in the common welfare of both District and environs laid the groundwork for improved interjurisdictional communications and cooperative efforts, and the Al Qaeda attacks highlighted the urgency. Since that time, vast strides have been made allowing for the interchange of intelligence between agencies.

Whether that intelligence is actually exchanged, or acted upon if exchanged, is arguable. The State of Maryland in general, and Montgomery County in particular, is exceptionally cavalier about immigration status violations. Maryland remains one of the last of five states which knowingly allows illegal aliens to be granted permits to drive. Montgomery County had a longstanding policy that no immigration status checks would be made even of persons arrested for serious misdemeanors. In recent times, more efforts have been made to do status checking of all persons actually arrested. Yet if Montgomery County Department of Police's record of non-cooperation and stonewalling of the Federal immigration authorities is in any way indicative of their general relationship with the Federal in-country intelligence community, then the Federal intelligence community must rightly consider Montgomery County Maryland to be an immense and troubling blind-spot.

History

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Current Cooperation

Montgomery County is, in parts, exceptionally wealthy. Aspen Hill is decidedly not one of those parts.

It's very much worth pointing out that Aspen Hill straddles several zip-codes and "unincorporated communities", and thus a crime on one side of Connecticut Avenue may be reported as occurring in Rockville, while right across the street it will be reported as occurring in Wheaton. Cross Aspen Hill Road and a crime will be reported as occurring in Silver Spring. Without extremely close analysis and direct reference to mapping, significant concentrations of crime in Aspen Hill may very well be reduced to "noise" in the statistics of the zip-codes Aspen Hill straddles. Yet to those of us who live here, there's no confusion: Aspen Hill is a crime hotspot. Georgia Avenue from Wheaton to Leisure World is considered the "mid-county crime corridor" and it has had this designation since the time Lt Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's "hot spots" program was started.

Due to a wide range of County policy over the last dozen or more years, Aspen Hill has become a point of concentration for recent immigrants who come with a fairly low level of skills, notably becoming a "barracks community" for illegal aliens and "temporary protected refugees" and other foreigners "permanently residing under color of law". A "barracks community" is defined as a community where a significant percentage of housing is occupied at significant overcapacity, primarily by young single working males.

Also due to a wide range of County policy -- mostly a policy of "blame the victim and never admit you were wrong" -- the growth of gangs of all types, varieties, sizes, and operational modes has been initially dismissed, disregarded, disagreed with as to perceptions of size scale and scope, and generally addressed through social programs where deemed feasible.

In many ways, the County has done its best to stay on top of the issue mostly through the means of assigning the search for solutions to organized crime problems to the legal department of the criminal organizations.

The recent construction boom pursuant to the "housing bubble" promoted immense demand for workers, many of whom traveled to Aspen Hill from such places as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, not necessarily with legal permission to enter the US and work here. A bit of a "job procurement racket" has emerged, with employment brokers operating without licenses and in ways which will be instantly familiar to any student of racketeering practices at the New York City docks.

Some locals wonder why exactly their clamor for Code Enforcement (to say nothing of the clamor for immigration enforcement) had been clearly ignored so long as the construction boom was ongoing. Astute readers cognizant of the history of racketeering at the New York City waterfront may also be reminded of the way that the racketeers were left unmolested throughout the Second World War so long as they prevented inroads by Axis agents into their own operations. Yet I don't think that it would be plausible for County officials to make the claim that Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 is keeping Aspen Hill safe from Al Qaeda. Indeed, the County's blanket policy of "we don't care they're undocumented aliens with no record of entry through point of inspection" is almost certain to assure a safe and secure base of operations for any hostile foreign power that wants to launch attacks against the Nation's Capital, or for that matter, to simply decimate the population of essential workers on a piecemeal basis.

Complicating matters is the fact that the top-tier Federal organization covering the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC is based in Baltimore (Castaneda, Ruben, "FBI's New Division Chief to Target Terrorism, Gangs, Organized Crime", B03, Washington Post, May 27, 2008 downloaded on 2008 May 27). There may be a new era of interdepartmental cooperation dawning, however, as the new Baltimore division director, one Amy Jo Lyons, is reported to be pursing that goal. Organizational cooperation between the various county governments and the FBI's Baltimore and DC divisions is certainly desirable. It will be impossible to root all of the foreign gangsters out of Aspen Hill without that cooperation. Failure to cooperate may, of course, be considered as evidence of public corruption on the part of any officials who have been ordering law-enforcement to not enforce immigration laws.