- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Prince George’s County police on Wednesday briefed reporters on the fallout from the county’s latest killing — the 69th so far in a year on pace to reverse three years of declines in homicides.

Two hours later, Metropolitan police in the District held a news conference of their own: to laud the results of a citywide effort they say has shown drastic reductions in killings in targeted hot spots.

The contrast between the events was stark.

Prince George’s County police announced they had shuttered a Capitol Heights nightclub where a 20-year-old girl was killed in a drive-by shooting this week. She was one of two people shot outside the club early Monday.

Jasmine Jerona Banks, of the 6500 block of Insey Street in District Heights, died from her injuries Tuesday. A man who was struck by gunfire was treated for injuries that were not life threatening.

The club, called MSG, or Music, Sports and Games, was closed Monday under a new law that enables a countywide crackdown on nightclubs, said Maj. George Nader. The club’s owner and three managers were also charged with the misdemeanor offense of operating a dance hall without a license.

“The establishment now has to go before the board to get their license back,” Maj. Nader said.

Karen Toles, the County Council member who sponsored the nightclub legislation, applauded the move.

“I’m pleased to see that we have begun to take action from this legislation,” she said.

Deputy Chief Lt. Col. Kevin Davis said that in the county’s hot-spot areas — mostly inner-Beltway communities that garnered increased police attention after a series of 13 homicides in the first 13 days of the year — crime is actually down by double digits. Violent crime on the whole is down 10 percent across the county.

But a dramatic upswing in homicides from last year, when police had recorded 52 at this point and finished the year with 91, has eclipsed other crime declines.

Over the same period, the District has seen 65 homicides — down from 71 killings to this point last year. The city is on pace to improve upon last year’s total of 132 killings, which itself was the lowest total in four decades.

From beneath a shaded awning on the grounds of the St. Thomas More Catholic School in Southeast, D.C. officials announced the positive results of their ongoing anti-crime efforts.

In five neighborhoods where police and other government agencies joined forces to increase patrols, clean blighted properties, and provide more work and play activities for youths, police reported a 71 percent drop in homicides from last year.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said the “extraordinary collaborative effort” by all the government agencies involved was so successful at reducing crime in the areas targeted that the programs in place now will be expanded to be active year-round.

“Thus far, we have a lot to be able to celebrate,” Mr. Gray said.

Three of the crime hot spots where D.C. officials have focused their efforts — selected because they contain the most densely clustered incidents of violent crime — are located less than a mile from the Prince George’s County border.

And the private Catholic school in the Washington Highlands where officials announced the results of the ongoing anti-crime initiative was closer to a police district headquarters in Prince George’s County than the Metropolitan Police Department’s own 7th District headquarters.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she reads morning crime reports daily from the District and both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to stay abreast of crime trends.

The chief, who grew up in Cheverly, said she doesn’t want to see a crime increase in her “old stomping grounds” as a result of stepped up efforts in the District, but she can’t help but note the progress the city has made.

“I think the city has really turned a corner and we are going to see a much safer Washington, D.C., going forward,” Chief Lanier said.