- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

Prince George's County, Md. police are struggling to explain the dramatic increase in homicides this year, but the department says an influx of drugs and guns is likely to blame.
The county has logged 102 homicides thus far this year, up from 71 all of last year and the end of a two-year drop, but far fewer than the high of 154 in 1991.
"I really don't know why we're seeing this sharp spike this year, but it is a disturbing trend," said Maj. Gary A. Corso of the county's Criminal Investigations Division.
Maj. Corso pointed to the "violent mix" of drugs and guns and their easy availability in the metropolitan area as the main cause of the increase.
He said most of the homicides were committed with firearms and that many of the victims had criminal records.
Among the victims are three reported this week. Two men died in separate shootings in Hyattsville and Mount Rainier Monday evening, and a woman's remains were found in a ditch in Landover early Tuesday.
No arrests have been made in those cases.
Solving cases remains a problem for county detectives: The department has a 34 percent case-closure rate on homicide cases this year.
Maj. Corso said the 18 detectives in the Criminal Investigations Division have been overwhelmed by the caseload. Several detectives working on so-called cold cases have been helping out as a way of "intensifying homicide investigations," he said.
Of the homicides in the county, 83 percent occurred in police districts along the D.C. border. More than half, 52, occurred in the area of the county that borders the District from Route 1 to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Prince George's County Council member Dorothy Bailey, who represents that area of the county and chairs the Council's Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Fred Thomas, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for public safety, also did not return calls.
The District's 205 homicides this year are down 8 percent compared with this time last year. But that figure includes a rash of 70 killings since the September terror attacks.
"We don't see any cause and effect from the September 11 terrorist attacks," Maj. Corso said of Prince George's total.
He said the rise in homicides is part of a much broader picture that includes a 50 percent increase in commercial robberies and a 71 percent increase in carjackings.
Montgomery County which had 12 homicides all of last year and 13 the previous year has also seen a dramatic rise, recording 18 through Nov. 23.
"Most of our homicides in the past year have been people who know each other as friends or family," said Montgomery County police spokesman Derek Baliles.
He said the homicides in Montgomery County, unlike those in Prince George's County, fit no geographical pattern.
In Fairfax County, there have been nine homicides to date compared with 12 all of last year.

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