- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Prince George’s County has set a new record for homicides in a single year, and most other suburban jurisdictions are reporting the same or higher number of slayings than last year.

The District has seen its lowest two-year total in homicides since the mid-1980s.

Prince George’s County police recorded 155 homicides as of yesterday, seven more than the total last year and one more than the all-time high set in 1991.

County officials say guns and drugs continue to be the driving forces behind the homicides in the county this year.

Capt. Andy Ellis, a county police spokesman, said that 67 percent of the homicides this year have been drug-related and that 82 percent were committed using firearms.

County officials say a booming housing market in the District has driven many low-income residents to Prince George’s County. As a result, the county has seen a sharp increase in its population in the past several years, but not an increase in police officers.

The county population of 844,190 is about 100,000 higher than it was in 1991, when the homicide record was set.

The population has grown by about 25,000 since 2000, when the number of homicides was 71. However, county records indicate that the actual number of police officers has declined through attrition from a 15-year high of 1,430 in 2000 to 1,347 last year.

Capt. Ellis said that 45 officers are expected to graduate from the police academy next month and that 45 more are expected to graduate in March. He said the largest county recruit class is expected to begin next month with more than 100 recruits.

By the time those officers hit the streets next year, police officials hope they will begin to see net gains in the number of police officers.

“There certainly is great hope coming up here,” Capt. Ellis said.

Other jurisdictions in the area are also facing increases in homicide totals.

So far, Fairfax County has reported 17 homicides, well above its 2004 total of nine killings. The county hasn’t had 17 killings since 1994.

Arlington County has recorded five killings so far this year. The county finished 2004 with one homicide, but officials say they do not think the increase indicates a trend. Recent homicide totals in the county have been between three and five in the past few years.

Alexandria had two killings so far this year, the same number as last year.

In Montgomery County, homicides are down slightly from 17 last year to 15 so far this year.

Meanwhile, the District is poised to record fewer than 200 killings for the second straight year.

There had been 171 homicides in the District as of yesterday, down from 179 at the same time last year.

The District finished last year with 198 homicides, the first time since 1986 that there were fewer than 200 killings.

“We’re doing pretty well so far,” said Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. “The trend is a positive one.”

The number of juvenile homicides, which spiked last year, has also decreased. Chief Ramsey said 11 children have been killed in the District so far this year, compared with 24 last year.

The highest number of homicides in the District so far this year has been in Southeast, in the Seventh Police District, where there have been 50 killings compared with 45 last year.

In Northwest’s Second Police District, which traditionally has the fewest killings of any police district, there has not been a homicide this year.

Other crimes, such as sexual assaults, burglaries and stolen autos, have also declined in the District by double-digit percentages.

However, robberies in the District increased this year. Robberies went from 3,161 last year to 3,287 so far this year. Last month, Chief Ramsey announced plans to offer rewards for information leading to robbery convictions.

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