- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006



County has millions for better public safety

Montgomery County officials from the County Council president to the police and fire chiefs to the state’s attorney yesterday praised a nearly $500 million public safety budget that boosts spending by nearly 14 percent, adding personnel, equipment and technology designed to make the community safer.

It includes nearly 200 new jobs, crime-fighting technology, vehicles and other equipment. The police department would get 28 positions, while the fire department would get more than 80, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said.

“Montgomery County is so safe, I often say that if it weren’t true, you wouldn’t believe it,” said State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler. The budget reflects a commitment to public safety, he said, predicting that “we will continue to see crime not go up.”

The proposal also includes gang prevention and youth employment initiatives.

“From every perspective, this is a winner for us,” said Fire Chief Tom Carr, noting that there is money to help the volunteer segment of the department.

The public safety budget “continues our commitment to give young people alternatives to crime and violence,” said council President George Leventhal.

The announcement was made at the new downtown Silver Spring fire station, a multi-use building that will house firefighters and equipment, the Silver Spring police substation and the Silver Spring Urban Crew.


Salisbury gets forfeited building

A home seized in a federal drug investigation has been turned over to the city of Salisbury to be used as a neighborhood services department and a police substation, federal officials said yesterday.

The turnover was made under the “Weed and Seed Initiative,” which is coordinated by the Treasury Department and the Justice Department.

The initiative allows forfeited property to be transferred to state and local public agencies.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of Ronald Seldon, as well as his mother, girlfriend and his girlfriend’s mother.

He was sentenced to 30 years in a federal prison for leading a crack cocaine ring from 1996 to April 2003 on the Eastern Shore and Prince George’s County.

Authorities said Seldon laundered more than $1 million, some through his mother, Yvonne Seldon; his girlfriend, Edwina Harmon, and her mother, Sylvia Harmon.

When search warrants were executed at his homes and on cars and bank accounts associated with him and the three women in July 2000 and March 2003, authorities found three guns, about $143,000 and drug paraphernalia.

They also recovered $130,400 in jewelry, 800 grams of cocaine base and 800 grams of cocaine hydrochloride.

The women also pleaded guilty to money laundering.



Teacher gets trial date in sunglasses case

A Prince William County judge yesterday set a trial date for a public-school teacher in Manassas charged with simple assault and battery when she removed a first-grader’s sunglasses and scratched his face.

Judge James B. Robeson ordered Rebecca Scott-Mitchell, 54, to appear in court April 19. Mrs. Scott-Mitchell faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine if convicted of the charge, which stems from a Feb. 27 incident at Baldwin Elementary School.

Manassas city police said Mrs. Scott-Mitchell confronted the boy, who has not been identified, about wearing the sunglasses and then removed them herself.

According to a criminal complaint filed by police detective E.C. Rivera, “the glasses broke due to the manner that the glasses were removed, causing the student to sustain multiple scratches to his face, including a scratched eyeball.”

The school system has placed Mrs. Scott-Mitchell on administrative leave while it conducts its own investigation into the charges.


7th suspect charged in ‘bumper-car thefts’

A seventh person has been charged in what has been called Loudoun County’s “bumper-car thefts.”

A sheriff’s department spokesman said Jose Fuentes, 21, of Arlington, turned himself in. He and six others face five counts each of grand larceny and conspiracy to commit grand larceny.

Investigators said the suspects stole eight cars in the Sterling area in December and early January, then raced them on the back roads of western Loudoun County.

The vehicles sustained a total of $100,000 in damage. One was set on fire.


Hit-and-run suspectserved time, police say

Richmond police said a woman charged in the hit-and-run death of a hotel worker this week served time in a Tennessee prison for killing a girl several years ago.

Authorities said Kelly Dinelle Payne, 33, was driving a pickup truck that ran down hotel worker Ashokkumar Patel, 51, as he was walking home Tuesday along a grass median near an entrance ramp to Chippenham Parkway. Payne was arrested about four hours later.

She faces several charges, including second-degree murder and felony hit-and-run in Mr. Patel’s death, police said.

Payne pleaded guilty in 2002 to vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident in the July 2001 death of a 13-year-old girl from Jackson, Tenn.

Officials in Madison County, Tenn., said Payne was sentenced to five years for the homicide charge and two years for leaving the scene of an accident. She was released in October.

Authorities said Payne was declared a habitual offender in Virginia in 1992 after a drunken driving conviction in Albemarle County and earlier offenses in Orange County and Charlottesville.


Police report seriesof taxi stickups

Police are searching for a man they say is preying on cab drivers in Northwest.

At least seven taxi drivers have been robbed, or been the targets of attempted holdups, in the past week.

The crimes began last Friday, with the most recent reported Wednesday night.

Police said the description of the suspect is similar each time.

In one case, a cab driver was hit with some type of object. In another, the driver crashed into a parked car and the suspect ran off.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 202/727-9099.


Track work to scrap two trains

Track work starting next week on the MARC Camden Line will require riders of two trains to make alternate plans.

Beginning Monday, train 851 from Baltimore and train 844 from Union Station will be canceled Mondays through Thursdays through April 5.

MARC said southbound riders can take train 849, which will make all of train 851’s regular stops. They can also use Penn Line trains, which is what northbound passengers will have to do.

The Baltimore light rail system can be used between Penn Station and Camden Station.

Questions abound on expanding Metro

Metro Board members plan to write to Virginia legislators to point out the benefit residents get from the transit agency — even those from counties that don’t support it with subsidies.

A survey released yesterday shows 10 percent of Metro riders — more than 73,500 — live outside the District and its inner suburbs, the jurisdictions paying millions of dollars each year to support the system.

The number of riders from counties that don’t pay a subsidy include more than 10,000 passengers from Anne Arundel County, Md.; nearly 10,000 from Prince William County, Va.; 7,400 from Howard County, Md.; and close to 3,000 from Loudoun County, Va.

The numbers were a hot political issue at yesterday’s Metro Budget Committee meeting, but the focus was on Prince William after a bill to increase Northern Virginia’s sales tax by a quarter cent to pay for Metro was killed in the General Assembly.

“The chairman of the committee that turned this down represents Prince William County. His constituents are benefiting” from the system, Metro Board member Chris Zimmerman of Arlington County, said of Delegate Harry J. Parrish, a Republican.

Mr. Zimmerman and fellow board member Dana Kauffman of Fairfax County said the goal of the letter is to ask Virginia legislators to recognize Metro’s benefits and to stop opposing Metro in Richmond.

Board members considered sending Prince William County a $5 million subsidy bill but decided on the letter.

Board member Robert Smith of Montgomery County said the region may need to look at whether outer suburbs should join the Metro subsidy partnership. But he said the fact that thousands of people are getting a free ride is not as much of an issue in Maryland as Virginia.

“Any riders outside the compact area are covered because the state covers the [subsidy] bill,” Mr. Smith said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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