- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Police chiefs in the District and Prince George’s County met yesterday to discuss initiatives to curb violent crime along their common border after a spike in homicides in the county so far this year.

Among the issues discussed during the meeting at Metropolitan Police headquarters in Northwest was what authorities called a “very elaborate gun network” attracting the attention of authorities on both sides of the border.

“What we see is the same guns are being used over and over again in violent crimes,” said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. “We’ve identified some things that we can target to try and get some guns off the street because the bottom line is that the gun crimes are driving a lot of the violence we have.”

Chief Lanier said the jurisdictions would work jointly on the issue, but she did not provide any specifics about their plans.

She said she and Prince George’s Police Chief Melvin C. High plan to increase patrols and police presence along the border to catch repeat violent offenders and reduce auto thefts.

Chief High, who said last month that he planned to secure from Chief Lanier a renewed commitment to cross-border initiatives, said the in-depth talks yesterday were “fruitful.”

“In many ways, Prince George’s County is a mirror of Washington, D.C.,” Chief High said. “We share a lot of these issues, a lot of the same challenges. … We felt it was important that we got together with a number of our staff people at various levels to have a face-to-face discussion.”

Authorities said an unspecified number of deputized officers will patrol the border under local and federal auspices — at least the third time in recent years that the strategy has been initiated.

The cross-border patrols were implemented in 1999, after law-enforcement officials on both sides 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 a handful of 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.

Officers conducting the joint patrols made several hundred arrests and recovered 50 to 60 weapons in late 2005 and early last year, Chief Lanier said. But after substantial delays in getting the patrols on the streets, manpower and resources were needed elsewhere, and attention to the initiative again faded.

Joseph Persichini Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, promised a renewed federal commitment to assisting local authorities in gathering and sharing intelligence and crime reduction.

A double homicide Tuesday night near the D.C. border brought the county’s homicide total to 45 so far this year, compared with 27 at this time last year. Police said two persons were found fatally shot in a car in the 4000 block of 23rd Parkway in Hillcrest Heights, about a mile away from the city line along Southern Avenue.

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

The Metropolitan Police Department reported 44 homicides in the District as of yesterday, compared with 43 at this time last year.

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