- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Violent crime decreased by as much as 23 percent from last year in five Prince George’s County neighborhoods targeted for extra patrols over the summer, police said Wednesday.

The positive results come in the course of a year that began with a spike in deadly violence that has kept the county above its homicide totals for last year and on pace to record as many killings as the District, with which it shares a border.

Police officials and heads of several county agencies gathered at police headquarters in Palmer Park on Wednesday to discuss their four-month Summer Crime Initiative, which increased government outreach into five troubled communities.

“No longer are we going to focus our efforts simply on suppressing crime,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw. “Our approach was going to be expanded to ensure that the county neighborhoods got the resources they needed in order to become viable, sustainable neighborhoods that are resistant to crime.”

Langley Park, Riverdale, Suitland, Glassmanor and Hillcrest Heights were selected for extra attention over the summer because last year they had the highest rates of four types of violent crime: homicides, nonfatal shootings, carjackings and robberies. Reductions in violent crime ranged from 9.7 percent in Suitland to 23 percent in Hillcrest Heights from mid-May to Sept. 1 this year compared with the previous year. Police made 580 arrests in the targeted areas.

Police said there were five homicides in the neighborhoods last summer. This year police are investigating three deaths in two homicide cases from the neighborhoods, including a case in which a D.C. police officer is accused of killing his girlfriend and leaving their baby to die in a sweltering car.

“These significant reductions in violent crime in the five focus areas have positively impacted crime in the rest of the county,” Chief Magaw said.

However, the number of homicides in the county remains up this year, due in part to a dramatic spike in slayings at the start of the year, which left 13 people dead in 13 days. To date, county police are investigating 80 homicides this year compared with 71 this time last year. That figure does not include homicides that occurred in the county that are investigated by other agencies. The District has recorded 81 killings so far this year.

Police reported that crime is down overall in the county by 9.7 percent, a decrease of 2,350 crimes.

“This would not have been possible unless we could bring all of our agencies together,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker, praising the teamwork of the county agencies involved. “It’s not just public safety. It’s quality of life.”

Officials think the Summer Crime Initiative has elicited enough positive results that they will follow a similar strategy next year.

“We are going to do our best to sustain it,” Mr. Baker, a Democrat, said.

Officials were unable to provide the cost of the initiative, but Mr. Baker said adding additional prosecutors and deputies to the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Sheriff would be part of the plan to sustain and improve efforts next year.

“It obviously has been successful and I’m not opposed to doing it all year but I don’t think we are there yet,” Chief Magaw said.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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