Takoma Park’s new chief of police Alan Goldberg was sworn in last month and said the transition to becoming the new chief has been smooth and enjoyable. Goldberg, who grew up in Aspen Hill, came out of retirement because he said he wasn’t done doing what he loved to do yet. Goldberg has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience with the Montgomery County Police Department.
Takoma Park Patch: What do you see as the biggest crime-related issues facing Takoma Park?
Alan Goldberg: Gangs are one of the number one issues. It's not just Takoma Park; it's only 2.5 square miles granted, so any of these crime issues are really regional. I think that the associated violence and gang culture is certainly detrimental to the quality of life. While we don't have a lot of gang-on-gang violence here, and we don't really have gang-related crime, gang members do commit the crimes, so I think that's one of the priorities. There's always going to be a trend that pops up, like when we had a burglary trend, but we made arrests in that. Of course we've had serious crime like the armored-car robbery in Langley Park and the shooting related to it. Those violent crimes are certainly a priority.
Patch: What concerns has the public raised about safety and how will you connect with the public?
AG: Some concerns were raised regarding the burglary trend in the neighborhood. There was a lot of misinformation, so we put the message out. There’s always a difference between perception of crime and reality that we still have to address. Through being open and honest, it'll lay the fears of most of the people. Most of the concerns are still traffic-related. I’m perfectly happy that’s one of the concerns… crime is down. Most of the residents have referenced speed cameras and things like that.
Patch: Why did you decide to go into law enforcement and what advice do you have for people who want to go into the field?
AG: I've been doing this for a long time and the reasons haven't really changed. I like the challenge of not knowing what’s going to happen when coming to work. It's not routine; it's a challenge. You can be sitting here doing paperwork one day and the next day you're having a hostage situation or saving someone's life. I really enjoy it; I feel like I'm giving something back and I get a lot of reward from that. That's why I went into it—I wanted something that wasn't the same old thing.
My dad was an electrical engineer for most of his life, but he was police officer in New York for three years. I never heard exciting stories about electrical engineering, but he kept repeating the same old war stories of being a cop. That piqued my interest and put me in that direction when I was younger. Just hearing some of those stories—I just knew it from early on.
I started in 1978 and I would recommend people to get that educational background; get a degree in criminal justice or psychology. It will definitely help them in the long run in the career as a profession. Try to finish that degree and look for the place they want to work.
Patch: Are there any plans to improve the police department in the future?
AG: We’re trying to improve the technology and cars. We're also trying to improve communications and have the ability to communicate with the other agencies. We can talk to other police departments, but we don't always have the ability to listen to dispatch channels. One of the goals I've set is to come up with some technology to allow us to know what's going on across the street.
Patch: What have been your proudest accomplishments and/or most memorable experiences?
AG: From a personnel aspect, a lot of people I supervised have made rank and are now in positions of leadership in the department. That’s really the legacy. That’s my biggest accomplishment: the people I’ve mentored who have made a positive change.
From a personal standpoint, I still remember when I was a DC police officer for a couple years in a poor high-rise public housing project; we had a call for child neglect. There were some kids in there, and a girl taking care of an infant or toddler was no more than seven years old. There was no food in the refrigerator, so we brought them food and McDonald's. Sitting there, the girl just put her arm around my leg, grabbed me and hugged me. Those are some of the things—it’s one life that you touch, but hopefully you did something positive.