Prince George’s touts record lows in homicide, crime statistics -- Gazette.Net


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Prince George’s County is safer than it has been since the mid-1980s, according to county police and elected officials who touted significant reductions in violent crime and crime overall during an announcement at police headquarters today.

But as homicides are at record lows — a 35.5 percent reduction from last year — just an hour before the announcement, a man was shot and killed in Seat Pleasant and a 2-year-old boy he was holding was also shot and injured.

Police Chief Mark Magaw said there is never a good time for a shooting, and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III echoed his words and said the homicide is a “motivator” to continuing battling crime.

“This is a beginning. We know we have a long way to go. What happened this morning showed that there is more work to do,” Baker said. “This is the motivator to go from here.”

Last year, there were 95 total homicides compared to 61 this year, as of Wednesday. There has also been an 8 percent reduction in violent crimes overall this year.

The drop in violent crime illustrates that there were 2,000 fewer victims this year and 3,800 fewer victims last year, Magaw said.

“At the beginning of this year, I said that number cannot stand and that number has not stood, with every category being down,” Magaw said.

Magaw and Baker were among Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), U.S. District Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein, county sheriff Melvin C. High, county state’s attorney Angela Alsobrooks and other county and state officials who pointed to reasons for the crime decline in recent years, mainly Baker’s staple improvement program, the Transitioning Neighborhoods Initiative.

TNI was launched in April and brought together multiple county agencies to reduce crime in six specific neighborhoods by focusing on increasing a law enforcement presence, cleaning up blight, repairing infrastructure and taking other strides to improve the communities.

In one example, there was a particular house in Kentland where “significant drug activity” was occurring, and officials identified and renovated that house, which is now drug activity-free and being rented out by a family, said Bradford Seamon, Baker’s chief administrative officer.

Seamon said another tangible result of TNI was the demolition of Chapel Wood Apartments, a set of vacant apartment buildings on Nova Avenue in the Coral Hills community, which he said had been a place for suspicious crime activity.

The targeted communities under TNI — Langley Park, East Riverdale-Bladensburg, Palmer Park-Kentland, Suitland, Hillcrest Heights-Marlow Heights and Glassmanor-Oxon Hill — have seen reductions as well.

Collectively in those communities, violent crimes are down 11.5 percent, property crime is down 7 percent and overall crime is down 8.75 percent.

Alsobrooks said the state’s attorney’s office has helped keep criminals off streets so that they do no become repeat offenders. She said the county now has an 88 percent conviction rate in homicides and that there are six full-time prosecutors dedicated to the homicide division. She said convictions help bring closure to families who have lost loved ones to violence.

“These are not just numbers; these are lives. Behind every number is a life,” she said.

Apart from TNI, officials attributed the reduction in crime to efforts such as shuttering 19 nightclubs found to have permit violations, which police have said can be primary contributors to violence.

While the homicide rates are much lower than previous years, several homicides of teenagers remain unsolved. Amber Stanley, 17, a senior at Charles H. Flowers High School, was gunned down inside her bedroom Aug. 22, police said.

Marckel Ross, 18, a junior at Central High School, was gunned down Sept. 11 while on his morning walk to school.

“These cases continue to be investigated rigorously, and I am confident in saying both of these cases will close,” Magaw said, noting the significant leads in the investigations. “Every homicide is critical to us.”

djgross@gazette.net