Prince George’s County police have launched a new division they believe will reduce crime even more than the current record lows.
The department’s Regional Investigation Division, which began Jan. 1, is a new chain of command structure that gives one commander the ability to shift at least 250 detectives as needed to investigate anything from non-fatal shootings to retail theft. Previously, detectives would be based out of one of the department’s six police districts, reporting to the individual district commanders and focusing on investigations in that district.
The new division allows investigators to focus wherever help is needed.
“This allows me to mobilize resources. I have 250 to 270 detectives to really get a foothold on any crime trends we’re seeing and bring them to any successful conclusion as quickly as possible. We’re moving [detectives] to where they really belong,” said the leader of the new division, Maj. Joe McCann, a former district 3 commander and previously a homicide and narcotics detective. “If I have things going on in Oxon Hill, I can take people from Hyattsville and set them down now. There’s no hesitation since there’s only one command.”
Department officials said the ability to move around detectives and have them report to three captains and one division commander will improve communication and give police greater ability to identify and arrest repeat offenders, identify crime trends and lower crime rates.
McCann said the new division houses 85 percent of all detectives in the department and handles about 97 percent of all crimes. The remaining detectives handle homicides, rapes and other more violent crimes.
Sgt. Aubrey Thompson, who heads the department’s organized retail crime unit formed in 2011, recently garnered national attention for his unit’s work targeting organized theft of Tide laundry detergent from retailers.
He said being under the umbrella of the Regional Investigation Division will allow for a more coordinated effort targeting ring leaders of retail crimes and identifying trends in theft operations.
“There’s already a reduction of overall crimes like murders and rapes. We want to see that reduction in thefts now,” Thompson said. “It’s really plaguing the nation. They’re not going to go out here and sell drugs or murder people, now the retail crime is the big thing. It’s high reward and low risk.”
In 2012, there was a 35.5 percent drop in homicides in the county and an overall crime drop of 8.75 percent, crime statistics the county has not seen since the mid-1980s, according to Prince George’s police officials.
“The concept and idea is great. If these guys just approach this with a hard work ethic, they’re going to be all right,” Thompson said of the Regional Investigation Division. “We’re going to keep attacking.”
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said she expects the new command structure to lead to the prosecution of more criminals, particularly repeat offenders.
“The way we work with [county police] is we coordinate with respect to groups and crews and organized crimes. We have the ability now to communicate more seamlessly,” Alsobrooks said.