- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

An effort by Prince George's County police to combat a sharp increase in the number of carjackings is proving successful, police officials said yesterday.
In February, county police began using what they call "stop and block," a tactic that involves surrounding suspects to prevent a car chase that could cause injuries. County police officials declined to elaborate on the tactic, saying that doing so would jeopardize their operations.
They did say the method, which is being used by a newly established task force on carjackings, has worked.
"It has made a tremendous impact," Sgt. Thomas LaBriola, supervisor of the Auto Crimes Team, said of the initiative. "This isn't a short-term problem, so there shouldn't be a short-term solution."
There have been 110 carjackings this year in the county, up from 82 a year ago. Carjackings most commonly occur on residential streets on Saturday nights between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Police have made 60 arrests in the past three months, recovered 40 stolen cars and more than $300,000 in stolen property and caught four carjackers in stolen cars. They also have arrested suspects in other crimes based on stops made because of carjackings or auto thefts.
The task force on carjackings was created Feb. 4 and is set to expire May 5 unless acting police Chief Gerald Wilson grants an extension.
The "stop and block" method used in Prince George's County has been successful for the Metro Dade Police Department in the Miami area and police departments in New Jersey and California.
Deploying undercover officers in unmarked cars with computers to high-crime areas to search for stolen cars has contributed to increases in the numbers of recovered cars and arrests. County police also have enlisted the help of Crime Solvers, which offers a $1,000 reward for tips leading to arrests in crimes.
Also, police will begin posting descriptions of missing cars in local media and will ask county residents to be vigilant.
"We think 1.6 million eyes will make a difference," said Maj. Gary Corso, commander of the criminal investigation division.
Sgt. LaBriola said the effort will improve the quality of life for county residents. "Until your car is missing, you don't realize how it affects your life," he said. "One woman told us that after her car was stolen, she couldn't take her kids to day care and couldn't get to work."
The acting chief of police couldn't agree more.
"This is a threat to anyone who owns a vehicle," Chief Wilson said.

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