The investigation into two armed robberies on Main Street last month is moving slowly, detectives told a community meeting last night, but the Kentlands is still a safe neighborhood.
Sgt. Brian Labatt and Det. Dave Woolsey from Montgomery County Police told a crowd of about 100 residents and business owners gathered at the Kentlands Stadium 8 theatre that there is "very little physical evidence" in the case.
The robberies, which police believe were done by the same masked and gloved man, were carried out at O'Hair Salon on Jan. 18 and Salon G on Jan. 30.
During each incident, a man believed to be an African American of average build, about 5'8 to 6', entered the salon at closing time when there was one person at the register.
He displayed a gun and demanded money, police said. During the second robbery, he forced the victim into a side room and sexually assaulted her, police said.
At the meeting last night, organized by Kentlands Downtown Partnership president and Kentlands business owner Joe Pritchard, residents raised concerns about the safety of their community.
"This is a very safe area," Labatt said. "This is not an unsafe community at all. We're not here all the time. Other places are are, but not here."
Gaithersburg Police Chief Mark P. Sroka said crimes of this nature in Gaithersburg are rare.
This year there have been two armed commercial robberies--referring to the Kentlands robberies. Last year, city-wide, there were just six total armed commercial robberies, he said.
However, Sgt. Labatt said County-wide "armed robberies are pretty much up."
Police have been seeing the largest increase in the downcounty area near the District of Columbia line, he said.
"We take all robberies very seriously," he added. "And we're working hard to find out who these guys are."
In the two Kentlands robberies, minimal surveillance footage was captured of the suspect, Woolsey said.
The best thing a business can do to help stop crimes like this is to have a properly installed video surveillance system that can record, he added.
One resident at the meeting worried that there didn't seem to be an increased police presence in the area in the days following the robberies.
"Maybe we're not supposed to see you," she said.
"We had plainclothes officers saturating the area," Sroka said.
Woolsey said he couldn't talk publicly about the added security measures County investigators were taking because it would jeopardize their effectiveness.
"I can't talk about what has changed (in security)," he said. "We know he has some kind of intelligence capability in the area."
Pritchard closed the meeting with an emotionally charged statement.
"I'll be damned if we let one person change the charachter of this neighborhood," he said. "Our businesses are open for business. Our streets are safe for walking."
Mayor Sidney Katz and the City Council were also present at the meeting, along with City Manager Angel Jones and Economic Development Director Tom Lonergan.