During the first two weeks of August, Prince George’s County’s homicide rate matched that of June and July combined, which has some residents calling for more investment in families and neighborhoods.
Five incidents — including a double homicide — took place primarily in the southern portion of the county this month, including attacks in the cities of Oxon Hill, Suitland and Landover.
Ron Balfour, 63, of Suitland said he is a former neighborhood watch member and was concerned to hear of the Aug. 10 shooting of a Suitland woman.
“Any incident that happens like that in your community, you always have concerns. [Crime] will go down, then all of a sudden you have a spike,” he said. “They always recommend more policing, more security, but all that costs money.”
Balfour said there is only so much law enforcement officers can do to promote safety if family members and neighbors are not taking responsibility for each other.
“Everything has to start from home. Parents have to pay more attention to their children,” he said. “The police are there to serve and protect, but if it’s not monitored from home, if you don’t have any place for these young men and women to go, that’s another thing that’s not helping.”
Balfour said there was a lack of summer jobs and recreation programs for youth in his area this summer.
Belinda Queen-Howard, a community organizer and resident of Capitol Heights — about three miles outside Suitland — attributes the spike in incidents to the chaos of summer and unaddressed personal issues.
“The problem is the summer is here, kids are out of school, people are on vacation, people are having summer cookouts and drinking and not thinking,” she said. “Even though we have police presence, at this point, it’s the people with the issues that are going to have to be addressed. People with anger issues or people who don’t have the training [to know better].”
Queen-Howard said her neighborhood organized a National Night Out Against Crime this year for the first time to encourage community participation in public safety efforts.
“We wanted to get people out to meet each other and learn to respect each other,” she said. “We can’t expect the police department to do everything. We really have to start taking it back to the neighborhoods.”
While the spike in deaths challenges the recent downward trend of homicide rates across Prince George’s County, county police spokesman William Alexander said the current rate is still nearly 30 percent lower than this time last year — with 30 homicides so far this year.
“Even one murder in Prince George’s County is too many, but we have made significant progress in the last few years,” he said. “In 2013, we had 56 murders, the lowest number of homicides in Prince George’s County since the mid 1980s. Between 2010 and 2013, we had a 38 percent drop in murders and a 30 percent drop in violent crime.”
Alexander said the spike in homicides in August is concerning, but not necessarily unusual.
“The number of murders ebbs and flows across the year, for instance, I recall we had multiple murders in January of last year,” he said. “We still have room to improve, but feel we’ve made significant progress on reducing crime and improving public safety.”