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As a result, there has been no single law or regulation that could be used to crack down on them. And responsibilities for the regulations governing club operations have been divided over a host of county agencies.

The fire department inspects for fire hazards and occupancy limits, the county liquor board monitors alcohol sales, and compliance with zoning and usage regulations falls to the Department of Environmental Resources.

“Each individual use-and-occupancy permit is specific to the license they have,” said Gary Cunningham, deputy director of the Department of Environmental Resources.

Police in the past have tried to prepare for violent outbreaks, deploying to strategic corridors such as Central Avenue and Marlboro Pike to assure a quick response when clubs let out. Specific bands have a tendency to attract rival gang members to their shows, many times leading to explosive confrontations, county police Capt. Raphael Grant said.

Jack B. Johnson, as county executive, attempted a heavy-handed approach to the problem in 2007, unilaterally closing nine clubs as part of a high-profile crackdown on club violence. Each club was cited as “an imminent danger” and shuttered. After the move was challenged in court, and five clubs were allowed to reopen, club owners came to an agreement with county officials to devise new security plans.

Even after the clubs made the supposed security upgrades, they continued to be sources of violence. Since 2008, county police have deemed 26 homicides “club-related” — meaning they occurred at or stemmed from an incident at a club — including six that occurred at clubs closed as part of the 2007 enforcement wave.

In August 2010, George Cooper, 25, was fatally stabbed during a concert inside the CFE Event Center in Forestville, one of the clubs briefly shuttered in 2007 and told to beef up security. The slain man’s mother contends that county officials never held clubs accountable for the upgrades.

A security camera inside the club — one of the new stipulations — was taping when Cooper was stabbed, but it was pointed at the band on stage, not the crowd, and provided no assistance identifying Cooper’s attacker, Tracy Cooper said. No arrests have been made in the case.

“I don’t understand how they reopened. They didn’t have any oversight from the county,” said Ms. Cooper, who has since filed a lawsuit against both CFE and the county.

On Sept. 16, CFE was padlocked. The closure was a relief for Ms. Cooper.

“We’ve been fighting since my son passed to get it closed down,” she said. “I’m glad they finally did shut that club down.”

Political will

The momentum behind the bill passed in July has strong ties to the November 2010 elections, officials said.

“It’s a different administration, a different focus,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark L. Magaw, who was appointed in December after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III was sworn into office.

County Council member Karen R. Toles, who represents inner-Beltway communities including Capitol Heights, Suitland, Temple Hills, Forestville and Oxon Hill, where many of the clubs are clustered, also was elected in November 2010. She said the crackdown stems from residents’ desire for a safer community and a need for economic development.

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