- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson said yesterday he is concerned about the county’s homicide rate but will try several initiatives to fix the problem.

“Fifty percent of my time is focused on it,” he told WTOP Radio. “We are working very, very hard.”

There have been 33 homicides in the county so far this year. At that rate, the number of homicides in 2005 would be roughly 200, compared with 148 last year.

Mr. Johnson said the county has embarked on four major initiatives to reduce the number of homicides — including an anti-violence task force that includes county police, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The other initiatives include a border patrol at the District line where officers look for vehicles with violations and a program to get guns off the streets, known as Take Away Guns (TAG).

Mr. Johnson also said about 40 men, in small groups or gangs, are organizing and committing most of the crimes, and that a special unit of investigators is working to link the crimes.

“We’re going to hunt them down,” Mr. Johnson said.

He acknowledged the county also has problems with car thefts and carjackings, but said rates have declined by about 8 percent since this time last year.

Mr. Johnson called for a “holistic” approach to resolving the crime problems — from parents keeping their children in school to management companies telling officials about apartments with too many occupants.

He said more police officers and improvements in the police department will help reduce crime and that quarterly and year-end reports will show better results.

“Two months cannot be an indicator,” Mr. Johnson said.

Vince Canales, a vice president of the county’s Fraternal Order of Police, agreed with Mr. Johnson that more officers are needed.

“Our members are stretched so thin right now, working 10-, 12- and 14-hour shifts with a minimum of days off,” he said.

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