Robbery Near Metro Draws Helicopter Over Neighborhood

Helicopter Search (c) Continuum

A robbery incident near the Greenbelt Metro has recently brought helicopters to our neighborhood sky.

The actual incident happened last Wednesday around 7:45pm, however it took several days to find out what exactly happened.

 The victim in the incident is a woman. The victim struggled with the perpetrator, who pushed her to the ground and ran away.  It is not clear whether the perpetrator was armed.  The helicopters and other police came to canvass the area, but the perpetrator escaped.

Several neighbors saw the helicopter in the neighborhood sky around the time when the incident happened. One resident, whose house is adjacent to the Hollywood Park, wrote: 

Last night there was major police activity in Hollywood Neighborhood Park.  I could not tell what was going on, but there were several police cars in the parking lot, and I could see two officers searching though the park with flashlights.

At about the same time, there was one helicopter flying around, over the neighborhood.  This was 8:30 pm or so…  The whole thing lasted about 30-45 minutes.   Then all activity ceased.

I also saw two Metro police vehicles speeding away through 52nd place (near the park) around that time.

Another armed robbery happened a week before this one, around the same place.

PG Police Offers Important Safety Tips

With the holiday season in full swing, the Prince George’s County Police Department is offering some general crime prevention tips to help remind residents of things they can do to reduce their chance of being a crime victim during this time of the year and to help citizens remain safe during the holiday shopping season.

When Shopping:

  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Walk in well-lit areas; populated areas; avoid cut-through paths.
  • Try to park in busy, well-lit areas and avoid parking beside large vehicles.
  • Lock your car doors, and place all valuables in the trunk or under the seats.
  • Avoid carrying large sums of cash, pay with a check or credit cards.
  • Keep your purse closed and close to your body and/or carry your wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.

At Home:

  • Don’t display presents under the tree where they can be seen from a window.
  • Keep all windows and doors locked when you are away from home.
  • If out of town, stop mail and newspaper deliveries and place a light on a timer, this will give the appearance of someone being home.
  • Have a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your residence.
  • Neighborhood Watch Needs Your Help – Please Do

    Neighborhood Watch

    As we reported a few times in the past, City’s Neighborhood Watch program is not in a good shape. There are only a few neighborhoods in the city that have active neighborhood watch programs. On top of that, the program has been running almost leaderless for some time.

    The City has been trying to revive the program for the past several months. Two month ago, they held a meeting at the City Hall asking residents to take leadership positions in the program. Accordingly, they published an application form asking residents in helping lead and expand the program. 

    The three chair positions the City has been looking for  have the following brief descriptions:

    • Recruitment: This person would work with neighborhoods interested in establishing a Neighborhood Watch Group and also be responsible for the administrative duties.
    • Training: This person would be responsible for the overall training of the NW group and provide training to existing NW groups when asked.  In addition, this person would arrange the quarterly meeting/trainings and create a Resource database for the entire network to utilize.
    • Police Liaison: This person would work with the City of College Park Public Safety Department, The Prince George’s County Police, our Community Officers and the University of Maryland Police Department to establish a set of operating procedures for communications city-wide.

    The application deadline is Monday, December 13, 2010.  If you’re interested, please submit your completed application to District 4 Councilmember Denise Mitchell at: DMitchell@collegeparkmd.gov

    Why Do You Like to Live in College Park?

    Welcome to College Park

    I’ve been in touch with a few residents on starting out a public relation campaign to attract others move to our town. The campaign will highlight good things about our city so that the outsiders can be enticed to move to our city. Though the detailed plan about the campaign is still a bit sketchy, one idea we’ve about the campaign is to develop a website that would include information to help others to move to our town. A website like this can have housing / apartment listings in the city and other amenities that a newcomer will find useful.

    Campaigns such as this may help to reduce the high volume of property vacancies due to issues such as foreclosures etc. When we have many houses left unoccupied, we invite other ills to the community, such as crimes etc. 
     
    So why do you like to live in the city? We know everyone has a few grudges against the way things work in our city, but the fact that you’ve been living here for a while, there must be something good here that keeps you calling this city as your home.

    Here are a few things we can think of (not necessarily in the order of importance)

    • Diverse and friendly communities
    • Home of the University of Maryland – great college town
    • Close to beltway, Metro and the nation’s capital
    • Great restaurants and shops
    • Affordable housing
    • Great student housing
    • Low crime rates
    • Free UMd shuttle ride within the city
    • Discounted housing with Work and Live College Park program

    Do you agree / disagree with any of these items? Do you want to add more to the list?

     

    Got a Speeding Ticket? Get this Info Handy

    Speed Camera near Duvall Field

    Speed Camera on Rhode Island Avenue (near Duvall Field)

    The City has released information to educate its residents more about the speeding tickets issued by the recently installed speed cameras. You may want to keep this info handy, in case you get a ticket.

    How can I pay this citation?

    You may pay this citation in various ways.

    • Mail a check or money order to: City of College Park P.O. Box 824255 Philadelphia , PA 19182-4255
    • Pay online by Credit Card or E-Check at http://www.collegeparkmd.gov/tkt%20payment%20online/ (Service fee applied for online payments). Pay in person at College Park City Hall

    What happens if I do not pay this citation?

    If you fail to pay the citation and any late fees in full by the due date, your vehicle registration may be flagged and subject to refusal or suspension.  If your registration is flagged, you may owe additional flagging fees to College Park an/or to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  (The MVA will assess a MVA flagging fee for each flag imposed.  This fee must be paid to the MVA and is in addition to the fine and fees due to the City of College Park.  MVA fees remaining unpaid may be referred to the Maryland Central Collection Unit for collection.)  Your name may be reported to the credit reporting agencies.  This jurisdiction may file a civil suit against you to recover the fine and associated fees.

    What if I lost my citation?

    You may call College Park speed camera enforcement information at (301) 552-6045.

    Why did I get this citation?

    A vehicle, registered or leased to you, was photographed by an automatic camera connected to a speed monitoring system. Vehicles exceeding the posted maximum speed limit are detected automatically and two photographs are taken.  On each photograph is the date, time, location, and speed of vehicle when the violation occurred.

    Is this citation a “traffic ticket”?

    No. This citation is not considered a “moving violation”. It is a civil citation holding the registered owner or lessee responsible for the violation (similar to a parking ticket). NO POINTS CAN BE ASSESSED FOR THIS VIOLATION AND IT WILL NOT RAISE YOUR INSURANCE RATES!

    Can I contest this violation?

    Yes. You may request to appear in District Court by returning the completed form below at least five days prior to the Date Due shown on the front of this notice. If you appear in Court, the maximum amount you can be charged is a $40 fine and court costs. You will be notified by mail of the court date. If you do not receive a notice within 30 days, call College Park at (301) 552-6045.

    What do I do if my vehicle or registration plates were stolen?

    Send a copy of the police report for the stolen vehicle or plates with the Request for Court Date to City of College Park P.O. Box 824255 Philadelphia , PA 19182-4255

    Will the speed monitoring system operator be present in court on my court date?

    No, the speed monitoring operator is not required to be present in court. However you may request the presence of the operator by submitting a written request for the operator’s presence no later than twenty (20) days before your scheduled court date. Please include your citation number and send in an envelope marked “Operator request” to City of College Park P.O. Box 824255 Philadelphia , PA 19182-4255

    How do I arrange for accommodations for people with disabilities?

    Both the District Court and the City of College Park will make any reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. Requests should be directed to the appropriate agency prior to visiting the facility. College Park (301) 552-6045 District Court (301) 699-2766

    What if I was not driving the vehicle?

    You must provide a sworn statement (notarized) in which you swear or affirm that you were not operating the vehicle and include any corroborating evidence. The statement must include the citation number and be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, and be received no later than 30 days after the mail date of the citation. Send all documents to City of College Park P.O. Box 824255  Philadelphia , PA 19182-4255

    FOR ANY OTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COLLEGE PARK SPEED CAMERA ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM CALL 301.552.6045

    City Seeks to Redefine Vehicles Parked on Streets

    Truck on street (c) Flickr

    On last Tuesday’s session, the City Council introduced a bill to redefine  the size and weight of the vehicles that can be parked on city streets.  There will be a public hearing on this ordinance on December 14, 2010 at 7:30 pm, when the council will make a decision on new changes. 

    Currently, the City prohibits any vehicle over a certain weight (3/4 ton), which includes many personal vehicles such as trucks and SUV’s.  In order to allow people to own personal vehicles such as this, the staff has proposed amending the definition of prohibited vehicles to more clearly cover only commercial vehicles. 

    The City’s ordinance covers only vehicles on City streets (unlike the County zoning code, which covers vehicles that are prohibited on people’s driveways).  The staff has proposed an ordinance which would prevent, between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am, the following vehicles from being parked on City streets:

    • Any vehicle exceeding 21 feet in length or six feet in width that is used for commercial purposes or exceeds one ton in weight.
    • Any vehicle exceeding a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight specification of 8,500 pounds;
    • Any camping trailer (these are currently prohibited on City streets but not in people’s yards, and this would continue)
    • Vehicles containing advertising other than a firm name or similar designation less than 4 inches high;
    • Vehicles exceeding 300 cubic feet of load space; and
    • Any stake platform trucks, dump trucks, crane or two trucks, or vehicles with dual rear wheels.

    [Source, NCP listserve]

    City’s First Bike Sharing Program Shows Success, Promise

    Though a lack of funding recently prevented our city from riding on a local bike sharing program, there is a good news to celebrate elsewhere.

    Last month, a team of recent UMD graduates presented their class project in a manner that would likely earn them an ‘A’ – they launched their first revenue-generating service of weBike, a community bike program that operates the country’s first station-less model of bike sharing.

    weBike was created three years ago while teammates Allie Armitage, Brad Eisenberg, Yasha Portnoy and Vlad Tchompalov were taking a course at the University of Maryland with Professor of the Practice Dr. Gerald Suarez. The class, ‘Systems Thinking for Managerial Decision Making,’ became a platform for the team to craft their class project into an ideal version of bike transportation in a college community. When class was over, the students felt their idea had enough value to pursue weBike’s implementation on campus. Upon receiving encouragement from Dr.Suarez, they launched a prototype in College Park and now operate weBike as an incorporated company.

    Read more »

    Will a Fee Hike Fix City’s Street Parking Problems?

    Let’s face this – the parking problems on our residential streets are real. I often hear complaints from my neighbors saying they cannot park their cars in front of their own houses  – no matter how many valid parking permits they have; their parking spaces are often taken by someone else. Not very long ago, I met a neighbor (in Daniel Park area), who said he works in the evening shift; after he comes back from work around midnight, he often needs to drive around the neighborhood to find an empty spot to park his car.

    The City knows about the issue, and thankfully they’re trying to address the problem.

    Ok, sort of. Their answers to fix the problem is to raise the parking permit fee. In the FY2011 budget, the City raised parking fee from $5 to $10. I took a poll on the fee hike around that time and found most residents against such a hike, even though the amount of hike isn’t so huge. (Some cities charge a lot more than $10.)

    The City wants to go even further beyond a flat $10 per car fee. In last week’s meeting, the City Council discussed a proposal to institute a gradual hike in parking fee.  What they want to have is a more “progressive” fee model. In this model, people who have more cars on the street have to pay more – for example, to charge a lower amount (say $5) for the first one or two cars, and then charge $10 or $20 for additional permits after that.

    For a City that is cash strapped due to decreasing sources of revenues, such a revenue generating idea is certainly enticing, but the question is – will such a fee hike fix the root cause of the problem? – the problem of overcrowded street parking?

    I doubt it will.

    I think it’s fair to say that when we see so may cars in front of some households, those houses are most likely rental properties. I’d say a very few houses we’ll find are not rental, yet they have many cars. A hike in parking fee, gradual or not, will not stop the renters from parking their cars on our streets. If there are more than one renter living in a house and if they are not related to each other, they will most likely try to get a parking pass even it costs them $50 (per year). Each renter is a family of his/her own and thus keeping and parking a car in front of his place would be an essential thing for him.

    A better way to fix the overcrowding of our streets would be to look at the parking capacity of streets. The City keeps data showing how many cars can be parked on our streets and thus should assign parking permits accordingly. Our streets are shared resources and thus if someone needs more than standard number of spaces, he or she will most likely address that problem through other means – such as building a driveway inside his or her house.

    A related but essential cause of parking overcrowding lies in the fact that many of city’s residential renal houses are overcrowded with renters. Many landlords rent their properties without letting the City know about their business – and this is illegal. Even more, some of these houses have more than allowed number of renters. When a house has more renters than they City allows it to have, these overcrowded houses put a burden on overcrowded street parking. Thus in such cases, a strong code enforcement, not a parking enforcement,  can only address such problem better.

    I know none of the two methods I suggested is interesting, when it comes to generating more revenues for the City, but if we want to honestly fix today’s overcrowded parking problems, a hike in fee shouldn’t be the only choice.

    NCP Resident Featured in Urban Farming Story

    Roy Caspari

    This weekend, Roy Caspari, a north College Park resident was featured in a story on his passion for urban gardening project.

    Here is the link to that story:

    Program trains immigrants in urban farming

    On most days, Roy Caspari, a native of Indonesia, works as a massage therapist and landlord in College Park. But every Saturday, Caspari drives to Edmonston to learn about urban farming with new friends from Guatemala, Peru, Ethiopia and Honduras.

    Many of the program’s participants, including Caspari, have already brought their family and neighbors out to the farm to show them what they are doing. Some of the techniques Caspari has learned were used by his grandparents in Indonesia, he said. But they didn’t know it was organic farming.

    “Now I teach this to my kids,” he said.

    Caspari lives with his family in Hollywood’s Niagara Road. The entire family has been quite active in the organic garden project they started in their backyard some time ago.

    Last summer, Caspari’s garden project was featured in another local newspaper. Here is the link to that article:

    Home Gardens Taking Root in Community 

    Congratulations Caspari for your hard work – you set an example for the rest of us in the community. You’ve made us proud! Thank you.

    Proposed Gateway Park Presentation

    In this month’s NCPCA meeting, members discussed the proposed Gateway Park development at the corner of Route 1 and the Edgewood Road. Though no one from the City’s planning department could be present at the meeting, they composed a PowerPoint presentation to share with the residents present at the meeting. You can access that presentation directly from the NCPCA’s website here, or view it below this post. The presentation has some key background information on the proposed development. Please check them out.

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    Armed Robbery Near Metro

    Last night, at approximately 7:15 p.m., a resident was robbed as he was walking from the Greenbelt Metro Station back to his hotel located in the 9100 block of Baltimore Avenue.  The victim was approached by a masked suspect.  The suspect pointed a handgun at the victim and demanded his bag.  Fearing for his safety, the victim complied and handed his property to the suspect.  The suspect fled on 51st Avenue.

    The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 18-20 years of age, 5’6″ in height, having a slim build.  He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, dark colored bandana, armed with a handgun.

    Detectives are working to identify the suspect. More details can be found here.

    I was coming from the Metro around that time (7:30pm?), with laptops in my backpack. 

    The incident is just a reminder for us to be extra careful during this time of the year. With days getting shorter, robbers will try to take advantage of dark to attack lone riders coming from the Metro. I suggest we walk with another rider, or call someone to escort us from the Metro, especially after dark.

    ‘Adult’ Store Gets Second Violation

    Comfort Zone (The Diamondback)

    North College Park’s controversial store “Comfort Zone” has received a second zoning violation for selling “adult” related products. The City handed over the violation notice after it inspected the store for the second time last weekend.

    The store received first violation from the City last month (October 12).  In the re inspection, the staff found a continuing violation, and issued a notice to that effect. 

    The North College Park Civic Association (NCPCA) invited the store’s co- owner Robert Joseph Carl  in its November meeting last week to explain his store’s alleged business practices to the local residents. Mr. Carl couldn’t attend the meeting. NCPCA also requested a written statement on such allegation, which it did not receive from the store’s owners.

    According to the City, the Comfort Zone property is zoned Commercial Shopping Center, or C-S-C.  The use restrictions in that zone prohibit any adult store, defined as any business that receives 10% or more of its revenue or has 10% of its floor space devoted to adult products. 

    Apparently, the use and occupancy permit for the Comfort Zone is for the operation of a variety store, and prohibits the sale of any adult products.  “I believe the owner disputes the City’s interpretation of the term “adult products,” so in all likelihood, this will be fought out in the courts. ” - commented Patrick Wojahn, district 1 council member.

    NCP’s First Speed Camera to Start Ticketing Without Warning

    In case you haven’t heard yet, the north College Park’s first speed camera to start giving out tickets by the end of this week. The first of two cameras will go operational on Rhode Island Avenue near the Duvall field by the week end. The second camera will go live later near Rhode Island Ave. and University Blvd.

    As I reported earlier, the first speed camera in the City went live last Monday along the Paintbranch Avenue Parkway.

    I knew that the caemras would be coming to our part of the city at some point, but I was a bit surprised to see them coming so soon.

    There are a few issues for which I was particularly puzzled about these cameras on Rhode Island Avenue.

    • Lack of Warning: Unlike the camera on Paintbranch Parkway, which was first installed last month and gave out warnings (instead of actual tickets) for an entire month, motorists will not get any warning from this camera in north College Park. It looks like that the City planned to install NCP cameras last month when they installed the one on the Paint Branch Pkwy, however it took them a while to get permission from the SHA (State’s Highway Administration) and the County’s Public Works Dept., thus they couldn’t provide 30 days warning period in our area. (Is this a lack of planning on City’s part or what?) The good news for the City is that the State only requires that the City undergo the warning period at one of the camera locations, thus they can go off the hook.
    • Time of Operation: These caemras  Rhode Island Avneue will be issuing tickets only during day time. This is so because they will be installed in an area called “school zone”. Unfortunately, traffics on Rhode Island remains bumper-to-bumper during the rush hours, and thus unfortunately the cameras won’t be able to stop speeding during evening period.
    • Location: Keeping the student safety in mind, I’m not sure if Duvall Field is the ideal location for the first camera. The place where I’ve seen most students cross the street is around Edgewood Rd. and Rhode Island Avenue. This is where the students cross Rhode Island to go to the Hollywood elementary school and nearly a mile away from Duvall field location.

    Coffee Club to Meet in NCP Today

    Coffee Club

    At 9 am today, the Coffee club will meet again today at NCP’s  IHop store ( 9680 Baltimore Avenue).

    The club first started its meeting back in early August this year.

    The goal of the club is to meet with residence of the community once a week to discuss public safety matters, crime statistics and other citizen concerns.  This forum is an excellent opportunity for the community and police to engage in comprehensive discussion of all topics related to public safety.

    Reminding local residents, Officer Jaron Black of PG Co police said “Come share ideas on building a stronger police and citizen relationship; the need for greater parental and community involvement with our children, in school at home and in our neighborhoods.  The setting will always be casual with an open format.  Together let us explore how we can make College Park a more livable community. All of the above topics are interrelated as citizens strive to work cooperatively to keep District I a place that we are all proud to work and call “Home.”  The Coffee Club is a public forum for ALL citizens, business owners, organizations, and public officials who share our goal.  Everyone is provided an opportunity to share his or her views on any topic of discussion.”

    There have been some concerns from residents about the timing of these coffee club meetings. While these meetings are ideal for retired residents, working residents find them extremely difficult to attend. “Can’t they (the Police) have these meetings in the evenings?” – asked one north College Park resident.

    Perhaps the club organizers can choose a different time to accommodate more residents in future.

    Area Police Officers Arrested in Corruption Probe

    Two days after the dramatic arrest incident of the outgoing county executive Jack Johnson and his council member – elect wife Leslie Johnson, county residents embraced more shocking corruption related arrest news yesterday.

    Yesterday’s arrest of 9 persons include 3 police officers – 2 from Beltsville and 1 from Hyattsville, plus a number of business persons.

    The FoxDC reported that the indictments make no mention of last week’s arrest of Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, who has been charged with witness and evidence tampering in a federal investigation of bribery involving a developer. “It’s part of an ongoing investigation in Prince George’s County,” said FBI spokesman Richard Wolf, of the bureau’s Baltimore field office. “I’m not going to make connections to any other cases that are currently out there.”

    Federal agents executed search warrants at 11 locations yesterday, including Tick Tock Liquors in Langley Park.

    The store’s owner, Amrik Singh Melhi, his wife Ravinder are accused of running a cigarette and liquor smuggling operation.

    ABC News quoted federal prosecutors saying that the Melhi’s paid at least two police officers and others to smuggle cigarettes and liquor from Virginia into Maryland to avoid paying taxes.

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