Residents of the Perrywood neighborhood and Prince George’s police held a biennial walk Tuesday night in an attempt to remain proactive in preventing crime in the Upper Marlboro residential development.
Around 20 people walked through the streets of the relatively low-crime neighborhood, but by the end of the route, numbers had swelled to nearly 30 people, as more residents joined the walk as it passed their homes. Neighborhood leaders said the goal of the walk was to familiarize residents not only with police but with their neighbors.
Dwayne Betts, a board member at the Perrywood Homeowners Association, said the association typically holds a community walk every other year, and stressed that it is important to have a good relationship with both police and neighbors before crime occurs.
“We don’t want it to always be because of a problem when we call,” Betts said. “We still want [police] to be a part of the community, don’t want to wait until there’s the red flag goes up.”
Betts said turnout was about the same as previous years, if not a little lower, which he attributed to cool temperatures and the walk being scheduled for a weeknight.
County police chief Mark Magaw, who joined residents on Tuesday’s walk, said it is important to develop and maintain relationships with residents, regardless of whether the community is deemed a high-crime “focus area” by police, which Perrywood is not.
Although police are planning a number of similar walks later this summer as part of the county’s new “Transforming Neighborhoods” program, an interagency initiative to decrease crime and improve economic development in high-crime neighborhoods, it is important to maintain police presence in quieter areas as well, he said.
“Being proactive and actually preventing crime is our ultimate focus,” Magaw said. “So if we can look for the little things, we can attack the little problems so that they don’t become big ones.”
Prince George’s County Police District 2 commander Maj. Amal Awad, who lives in Perrywood and whose district includes the neighborhood, said crime is infrequent and “sporadic, not constant,” in the development, and mainly consists of property crimes such as thefts from cars and burglaries, with the occasional robbery.
According to statistics provided by Awad, in 2011 there were 10 reports of “crimes against persons” in Perrywood, including one rape, five assaults and two robberies. Last year, there were 32 reports of property crimes, including 14 thefts from vehicles, three burglaries and four stolen vehicles in the neighborhood.
Awad said that it is just as important for residents to get to know each other as it is to become familiar with the police covering the area.
“The walk inspires people to get out and talk to one another, and you don’t see that a lot anymore,” she said. “It’s about getting people information and being proactive, so that if something does happen, people know what to do.”
Resident John Doup, 42, said he came out to the walk to show “pride” in his community. Community walks display unity by residents, which discourages potential criminals, Doup said.
“It’s about getting everybody together to patrol the neighborhood and get to know one another,” he said. “And it shows we’re united as one and on the lookout for each other.”
Del. Melony Griffith (D-Dist. 25), who also lives in Perrywood, said even little things such as keeping lawns mowed and bringing in trash cans promptly can discourage crime because these show residents are attentive.
“It shows that members of the community here care,” Griffith said. “It’s a visible sign of neighbors working together.”