- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The police chiefs for Prince George’s County and the District will meet today to talk strategy for a joint border-patrol initiative, after a recent spate of homicides in the county.

The meeting, at police headquarters in the District, is set to take place in the wake of a violent stretch for the Maryland county. Police as of yesterday reported 43 homicides in Prince George’s County so far this year, compared with 27 at the same time last year.

During one 12-day span last month, county police recorded 11 homicides.

In late March, after a weekend in which six persons were killed, Prince George’s Chief Melvin C. High said he would reach out to Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier for a renewed commitment to the cross-border initiative.

County police spokesman Cpl. Arvel Lewis said he wasn’t aware of any specific incident that spurred the meeting or if it was related to the spike in homicides.

“This initiative isn’t new,” Cpl. Lewis said. “Chief High frequently discussed it [with the Metropolitan Police Department]. So as far as I know, it’s business as usual.”

Police in the District also said they did not know who initiated the meeting.

Chief High has championed the cross-border initiative in the past. He said that his officers and Metropolitan Police officers work closely together — often patrolling areas in the same cruisers — and that he and former Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey regularly discussed the patrols.

The cross-border initiative was implemented in 1999, after law-enforcement officials on both sides of the border complained of suspects eluding capture because D.C. and Prince George’s police do not have arrest powers in neighboring jurisdictions.

The U.S. Marshals Service deputized some police officers, but the program ended two years later because the marshals did not have the manpower to supervise the officers involved with the task force.

The jurisdictions signed an agreement in October 2004 to resume the patrols, again under the supervision of the marshals service.

Prince George’s officials also have attributed the rise in crime to escalating property values in the District, which have forced lower-income residents to relocate to Prince George’s County.

The number of homicides in Prince George’s County decreased by roughly 21 percent last year, after a record-breaking year in 2005.

There were 134 killings in the county last year, compared with 169 in 2005, according to county police. Other types of crime also were down, with police reporting a 13.9 percent decrease in violent crime and a 12.5 percent reduction in property crime.

County officials late last month moved to close nine nightclubs in neighborhoods near the border with the District, citing the high number of violent incidents and 911 calls police responded to near the clubs.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Department reported 44 homicides in the District as of yesterday, compared with 43 at this time last year. The District reported 169 murders last year, the city’s lowest annual total in 20 years.

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