Prince George’s government collaborations lead to enhanced communities -- Gazette.Net







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Joint efforts show working together brings results

Prince George’s County and municipal leaders are witnessing some of the lowest crime rates in decades — success they attribute not just to increased policing efforts, but to multi-agency initiatives targeting blight, abandoned properties and truancy.

Capitol Heights’ Joint Agency Group unites the Capitol Heights and Seat Pleasant police departments and county agencies who go to neighborhoods monthly to address problem issues like abandoned homes.

Capitol Heights Police Chief Anthony Ayers, who began the effort in 2011, said 118 of the 120 homes visited have remained in compliance since the initial JAG visit. JAG partners say the monthly outings reduce bureaucratic red tape by having all the relevant parties speaking to homeowners in one setting rather than a series of communications.

On a larger front, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) started his Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative in April with a plan to target crime, social services and beautification challenges in six communities. A Baker staff member leads each community initiative and works closely with county agencies to address concerns.

The early results for both efforts are promising.

County officials credit TNI with helping reduce violent crime in the communities by 11.5 percent and overall crime by 8.75 percent. Countywide, police say crime numbers are the lowest they have been since the mid-1980s.

Capitol Heights’ violent crime in 2012 was down 43.2 percent from 2011, and overall crime was down 32.5 percent, according to the city.

Baker reallocated positions among his staff and county departments for TNI, so the program has no additional hits to the budget, county officials said. JAG also functions in a similar manner.

Baker’s staff hopes to receive funding from foundations and nonprofits to further expand TNI’s reach; however, the county executive should dedicate funds for the expansion of such a valuable project rather than risk losing momentum when grant money runs out.

Communities that already work together — Berwyn Heights, College Park, Greenbelt and New Carrollton with their quarterly Four Cities meetings and the Port Towns (Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston) — already have the infrastructure in place with quarterly sessions and could easily adapt TNI and JAG strategies.

Clearly, community enhancement efforts don’t have to be massive endeavors; they are simply a matter of bringing all the invested parties together. The county’s communities can only improve from the collaborations.