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Diverse Suburban County Not Known for Violence

With its wealthy suburbs, tens of thousands of federal employees and industrious middle-class immigrant population, the crime rate of Montgomery County, Md., generally ranks far behind that of neighboring Washington, D.C.

With just 19 murders last year, the county's 874,000 people are relatively safe from killing sprees like the one that left five people -- all of them within a ten-mile radius -- shot to death.

The county is home to people from dozens of countries around the world, and is the most diverse, populous and wealthy county in Maryland. And its residents are generally educated and well off. Seventy-five percent of adult residents here have some college education, and a full 30 percent have finished graduate school.

The population of the county is also relatively young. The largest age group is 5-19, most of whom were students held in lockdown at their schools Thursday while police searched for the killer or killers responsible for the shootings.

Educated immigrants from India, China, Peru and Ethiopia provide an employment pool for an impressive number of Montgomery County computer companies, doctors' offices and specialty shops that cater to native tastes from home. Refugees and immigrants from El Salvador also provide the service industry with a healthy labor supply.

The county is also home to thousands of government workers. Located north of the District, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda alone employs 16,000 people.

The population growth has sparked a housing boom in recent years. In upper Montgomery County, million-dollar mansions have sprung up in fields that once were bucolic horse farms. The median new single-family home costs $364,000, with median household income just over $74,000.

A number of high-profile politicians, business owners and other sports and entertainment figures have homes in Montgomery. Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Wonder Woman actress Linda Carter, actor Sylvester Stallone, media personalities Ted Koppel, Wolf Blitzer and David Brinkley, along with members of the Marriot, Haft and Kennedy families, all have homes in the county.

Malls and other commercial businesses dot the landscape in much of Montgomery. There is no shortage of Bloomingdales, Nordstroms and Neiman Marcus, along with a number of more modestly priced stores.

Of course, the county isn't always quiet. Some of the more sensational crimes in the area have taken place in Montgomery. Among them was the murder of a wealthy Potomac woman, whose dentist husband was accused of the crime, and a plot by a city council candidate to hire a hit man to kill her husband.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.