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Police Commander Details Recent Crime Binge

by BethesdaNow.com | December 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm | 773 views | 1 Comment

Bethesda Police District commander Capt. David Falcinelli today urged residents to be vigilant and immediately report crimes after a daytime burglary binge in River Road neighborhoods and three recent robberies in the downtown area.

Falcinelli said police have seen an increase in burglaries from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in neighborhoods near River Road and Massachusetts Avenue. Burglars have struck a reported eight times since September, targeting jewelry and electronics when residents aren’t home.

In one case, Falcinelli said suspects triggered an alarm very shortly after a resident had left their home, indicating they had been casing the neighborhood and noticed the resident leave.

There was only one incident where suspect information was provided to the police. A neighbor observed two black males in their 30’s, one with a beard, to the rear of one of the burglarized homes. In response to this activity, my uniformed officers have been directed to provide increased day time patrol and covert resources have also been allocated. Please pay careful attention to your neighborhood and call the police immediately for suspicious activity at 301-279-800 (non-emergency) or 911 if you observe a crime in progress.

Falcinelli also described three incidents — a robbery and two attempted robberies — from the Central Business District over last weekend.

On Friday, BethesdaNow.com reported a strong-arm robbery near an apartment in the 4900 block of Battery Lane. Falcinelli said a resident of the building was selling electronics through Craigslist when the suspects, two black males in their 20′s with dreadlocks, tried to pay in counterfeit bills.

When the victim realized this and tried to end the deal, the suspects assaulted him and took the electronics, consistent with events in neighboring jurisdictions, Falcinelli said.

The two other incidents, both attempted robbery are described by Falcinelli below:

Also on Friday, an employee of a business on Bethesda Ave. was walking to the Bethesda Metro after work (10pm) when he was accosted by three black male suspects that assaulted him and tried to take his back-pack. The victim did not report the offense and we learned about it via a list-serve. We have since identified the victim and assigned his case to our detectives. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reporting crime. Even if the police are unable to make an arrest, the victim is provided services through our Victim Assistance Coordinators.

During the investigation of the above robbery, a citizen approached the officers and told a story about a robbery she had witnessed on Saturday night where the victim was leaving a bar on Montgomery Ln. and became separated from his friends. As he walked on Hampden Ln., a group of five suspects, described only as black males, demanded the victim’s wallet and pushed him to the ground. The victim received injuries in this attack, but it was also never reported to the police. We were also able to identify this victim and this case has also been assigned to a detective.

The downtown Bethesda area already has increased police presence from the MCPD’s Shop with a Cop program, but Falcinelli said he has brought in additional overtime officers from other districts to beef up MCPD’s presence.

He cited a drug arrest Tuesday night outside Montgomery Mall as evidence as that strategy working. Both people arrested had significant criminal histories, Falcinelli said.

4935 Bar and Kitchen Making Progress

by BethesdaNow.com | December 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm | 2,260 views | No Comments

The owners of 4935 Bar and Kitchen, the restaurant taking over the space of Tragara’s on Cordell Avenue, are making progress overhauling the two-story space and are shooting for a late-January restaurant opening.

The upstairs banquet hall has come a long way from the spot that came to be known as a Bar Mitzvah reception favorite.

“Don’t get us wrong, we’re still gonna do those. We’re still gonna host parties,” said general manager/bar consultant Bourke Floyd. “We’re still gonna have a lot of fun and we hope that families and wedding receptions and all of that stuff, that will still be a large part of our business upstairs.”

But the more modern look, complete with sleek black furniture a sprawling bar and yet-to-be-installed riser for DJs and live music acts, definitely provides a different feel from Tragara, the 26-year-old Italian favorite.

“We have a chef from the French Culinary Institute. We have pretty dynamic cocktails and some stuff people really haven’t seen. We want to offer something that people don’t readily get in Bethesda right now,” Floyd said. “I’m not saying that there aren’t some great spots in Bethesda. But what we hope will set us apart from is we’re going to offer a top-dollar experience at a less expensive price than what some people are used to paying.”

Once the downstairs restaurant starts up (hopefully in late January, Floyd said) entrees will be in the $27-$32 range. It’ll certainly be a fine dining atmosphere, Floyd said.

The upstairs space, while offering the same menu, will be a bit more casual with the music and bar open late to customers on weekends.

While the dining area remains a work in progress, 4935 (at 4935 Cordell Ave.) is accepting reservations for events upstairs and will host a New Year’s Eve party.

Photo by Jane Mallen via 4935 Bar and Kitchen

NIH Expects No Further Noise Issues From Power Plant Testing

by BethesdaNow.com | December 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm | 628 views | No Comments

Unseasonably warm weather led to noise issues during testing of the National Institutes of Health’s on-campus power plant this week, according to a NIH spokesman.

The routine emission testing, required by the state every two years, usually goes unnoticed by neighbors of the 300-acre, 75-building campus between Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road.

But earlier this week, when record-breaking temperatures reached 70 degrees, the complex process of having to create steam in warm temperatures led to the louder than typical noise, NIH Office of Research Facilities spokesman Brad Moss said.

Word reached NIH, which quickly prepared a fact sheet for neighbors about the testing process and how the warm weather led to the noise. As temperatures have cooled down, Moss said the noise is no longer an issue and shouldn’t be as testing goes on for the rest of the week.

The “cogeneration” power plant came online in 2005, according to the NIH’s newsletter, and at that time provided 40 percent of campus electricity needs and produced 30 percent of the steam required to heat buildings in the winter and sterilize scientific equipment.

The $38 million facility is owned and operated by Pepco, but the federal government will take control in 2015. The plant was reportedly expected to reduce pollutant emissions by 600 tons per year compared to the installation of another boiler to create steam.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Service Center Director Ken Hartman noted the company performing the testing has been made aware of the county’s noise ordinance, according to a weekly email alert.

County Shows Off New Open Data Program

by BethesdaNow.com | December 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm | 1,141 views | No Comments

Montgomery County officials Wednesday touted a just launched collection of websites that will allow residents to search employee salary figures, county contracts, budgets and numerous other data sets.

The county’s Open Data program is meant to allow for greater transparency and to encourage innovation, such as smartphone app development using the government data.

“No county in the United States has received more awards for innovation and technology leadership than Montgomery County,” said Dr. Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute. “So that to me says an awful lot. This puts things together in a way that very very few communities have done. It’s on par with every major city in the country.”

The Open Data program includes four online components: Access Montgomery for questions on Ride On bus routes, trash collection and other services, Data Montgomery for data sets including salary listings and detailed budget expenditures, Engage Montgomery to ask questions of residents on specific issues and Mobile Montgomery to introduce smartphone apps already available.

“We will be able to have residents participating in discussion and debate and get a better understanding of their priorities,” said Councilman Hans Riemer, (D-At large) of Silver Spring, who yesterday saw his Open Data legislation approved. “Like a lot of councilmembers I use Facebook for this already. If I’m thinking about an issue I ask a question on my website and we have a great discussion and I learn a lot. I take a temperature. This is going to systemize that …kind of participation.”

Riemer’s legislation requires the county to upload data onto the new websites, to develop an implementation plan and to publish results from any Maryland Public Information Act request.

Riemer and Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) praised County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) for his office’s efforts in implementing the system.

“There are some of us that are old enough that when people talk about the cloud, we get a little confused, or when people talk about platform we go, ‘OK, is this the subway platform?’ So there are many of us who we really don’t know what we’re talking about,” said Berliner, who asked Riemer to take the lead on the council portion of the initiative. “This really does make a big difference in terms of what Montgomery County is, how we relate to our people, how we create economic opportunities, how we’re democratizing economic opportunity by creating the basis for which every citizen can help us, help themselves and grow our economy.”

Panetta Visits Walter Reed A Year After Dedication

by BethesdaNow.com | December 5, 2012 at 10:20 am | 700 views | No Comments

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center yesterday, one year after dedicating the facility that absorbed the Walter Reed Army Hospital from its previous location in Silver Spring.

In a speech, Panetta thanked doctors and nurses for coming together to care for the many wounded veterans on campus, according to the Defense Department.

“I want to thank you for your leadership, because what you have here is a world-class center for healing, for compassion, and for empowerment,” Panetta said.

Nearly 4,000 employees have moved to the Naval Hospital Bethesda base after 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) mandated Walter Reed merge onto the Wisconsin Avenue campus. The original estimate was 2,500, a discrepancy nearby residents and some local officials say has contributed to a major traffic mess.

“When you move Walter Reed, you don’t necessarily get that corresponding benefit that you’d normally get if you’re bringing in 1,200 jobs from somewhere else, say from New Jersey,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in an October interview. “That means those people are going to move, buy a house and now become new taxpayers. Walter Reed, because it was only a few miles away, you don’t get people moving from other places. You get the traffic, but you don’t get all the corresponding other things that come with that.”

Recent expansion plans on both the Walter Reed campus and at the neighboring National Institutes of Health have again put neighbors on notice. Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) estimates 270 additional workers on the Walter Reed campus. NIH’s master plan calls for as many as 3,000 more employees over 20 years.

That means the No. 1 and No. 2 largest employers in Montgomery County, which sit across six lanes of traffic coming and going from downtown Bethesda, will only grow.

To assuage local fears and to make crossing Wisconsin Avenue from the Medical Center Metro station easier for Walter Reed patients and workers, the state’s Congressional delegation this year dedicated a rare BRAC project outside the base walls.

Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D), as well as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) touted federal funding for a Wisconsin Avenue Metro tunnel that would making crossing the street safer and ease traffic issues.

“We believe in the mission of these two agencies and we thank our local community for your patience during this difficult time,” Mikulski said at a September press event. “But at the end of the day, we’re gonna have more jobs, better healthcare, honor our promises to our veterans but also our promises to our country of the great innovation that goes on here.”

Flickr photo by Secretary of Defense

Morning Notes

by BethesdaNow.com | December 5, 2012 at 9:05 am | 496 views | No Comments

Two Attempted Robberies Last Weekend — In both cases a group of men accosted (in one case grabbed and threw to the ground) the victims, both men. Neither incident resulted in any property being taken and neither were reported to police, who found out on a community listserv. [Bethesda Patch]

State Political Heavyweight Holds Hefty Fundraiser — State Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert County) raised almost $200,000 at a fundraiser dinner Monday night at Congressional County Club. In attendance: newly elected 6th District Rep. John Delaney (D), County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and his predecessor Doug Duncan, who has made clear his intent to run for his old post in 2014. [Washington Post]

Photos of Winter Wonderland Celebration — Pictures from last weekend’s a capella performances, ice sculpture display and, of course, Santa appearance. [Bethesda Urban Partnership via Facebook]

How Virginia Wooed Major Company — Intelsat, the operator of the largest fleet of commercial broadcast satellites in the world, was looking at a planned office building in Bethesda for its new headquarters. Instead, a $1.3 million grant and tax credits from Virginia officials ended in an official announcement yesterday: Intelsat will be moving to Tysons Corner. [Washington Business Journal]

Exiting School Board Member Put Kids In Private Schools — Laura Berthiaume, who didn’t run for re-election on the Montgomery County School Board, says she put her kids in private schools after last school year. She also sounded off on the ability of the Board to make real progress. [The Gazette]

Flickr photo by Secretary of Defense

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