- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Twelve killings in Prince George’s County this month have vaulted the county’s homicide total this year over last year’s tally.

In the most recent cases, two men were found dead about 10 p.m. Sunday inside a single-family home on the 3300 block of Poplar Drive in Forestville, county police said.

Marvin Jackson and Harry Harper, both 47, were shot multiple times in the upper body. Both men lived on the block.

Police said another man, a 22-year-old Upper Marlboro resident, also was shot more than once in the upper body but escaped the house and got a neighbor to call police.

The man, who has not been identified, was taken to a hospital.

Police yesterday said they have no motive for the shootings.

Those killings elevated the homicide total to 135 for the year, as of yesterday. There were 119 killings at this time last year and 128 killings for all of 2003.

Lt. Larry Gordon, who heads the Prince George’s County Police Department’s homicide unit, said no identifiable causes or trends have emerged to explain the increase.

“I can’t really offer anything as an explanation, except there seems to be an attitude on the streets that there is less regard for life,” he said, adding that, as in past years, the majority of the killings resulted from arguments or fights.

The county is on pace to record 147 killings this year — more than double the 71 killings it recorded in 2000, when the homicide was trending downward from a high of 154 slayings in 1991.

Lt. Gordon said the department’s four homicide squads, which usually employ a sergeant and six investigators, have been loaned an additional investigator from the police districts to help with the caseload. The staff of the “cold case” squad also has been temporarily increased.

“That’s worked out very well,” Lt. Gordon said.

He said 75 homicide cases have been closed this year — on par with the national average of 55 percent.

After a spate of nine killings in one week in August, County Executive Jack B. Johnson called the pace of killings an “aberration” and said he was optimistic the homicide total would be less than last year’s.

Since August, the homicide rate has accelerated. The majority of killings have occurred in neighborhoods along the border with the District, where homicide totals are headed toward a 20-year low.

The District has had 183 killings this year, compared with 224 at this time last year.

Mr. Johnson said in August that economic and housing policies in the District may have affected crime in Prince George’s County and that he has discussed the issue with D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Last month, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Williams signed a memorandum of understanding allowing select officers from the two jurisdictions to be deputized to take police actions on either side of the border.

James Keary, spokesman for Mr. Johnson, said the county executive won approval for a 7 percent increase in the police department’s fiscal 2005 budget, boosting it to $159 million.

He said Mr. Johnson has committed himself to hiring 150 additional officers each year for next six years, in part to make up for officer attrition.

“Over the last decade, the population of the county has increased, and [Mr. Johnson] realized that the size of the force has not kept up with the pace of the growth,” Mr. Keary said.

The county has 1,290 police officers and about 840,000 residents — or about one officer for every 650 residents. The police force is authorized to have 1,420 officers.

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