12 Homicides Leave Leaders Concerned

Eyes On County Politics

by: Bruce Branch Special to the AFRO
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In one of the worst violent crime sprees in recent memory, community leaders have started to look at ways to stop the violence in Prince George’s County where there have been more than 12 homicides in less than two weeks through July 11.

Three of the killings came two days and a little more than a mile apart in Forestville, Md. and Suitland, Md. The most recent was reported around 2:40 a.m. on July 11 in the 1500 block of Forest Park Drive where they found two men suffering from gunshot wounds when they arrived. One of the men was pronounced dead at the scene and the other was transported to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Bruce Branch (Courtesy Photo)

On July 9, two men were shot in an alley near the Popeyes Restaurant in Suitland. One of the men was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man ran to the restaurant for help and died later at a nearby hospital. The day before a stepson killed his father in Bowie, Md. and posted selfies of himself posing with the dead man’s body.

The suspects in each of the shootings are still at large. Meanwhile Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski has beefed up patrols with 12-hour shifts in areas of the county where violent crimes, property crimes, fatal collisions, disputes and loitering have dramatically increased. Stawinski did not say when the extra patrols would end, but remained confident that the patrols would help to end the current spate of deadly violence. He called the increased patrols a “temporary and measured response” to the county’s recent spate of violence.

“As of today, there is a one percent difference in violent crime this year versus last year,” Stawinski told reporters at a press conference that was streamed on PGPD TV. “We are still at fewer homicides by one this year than last year. So this isn’t a response to a huge spike. We are essentially flat. This is to ensure that lives of citizens, lives of officers, lives of Fire and EMS personnel are not jeopardized by these disputes that are evolving into violence. In the majority of the cases, the individuals were known to one another. They are occurring over a wide geographic basis. That is why we are bringing all of the resources of the agency to bear.”

Darryl Hairston, whose son with the same name was allegedly picked out and shot and killed at a Temple Hills, Md. fast food restaurant in May 2016, said he is dedicated to stopping the violence in the county. He has started a foundation in his son’s memory and said he is putting together a “Stop the Violence Event” in the Suitland area once he gains approval for a location.

“We have got to do something,” Hairston told the AFRO after he received news that another relative had been shot on July 12 in the county. “This is tough, real tough. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights over the loss of my son, but there was no beef or nothing. He just came in the restaurant and shot and killed him. No reason. That’s hard to understand.”

Maryland Del. Darryl T. Barnes (D-25), who represents the county, said elected officials need to take a moment to figure out some solutions. “We need to look at what is causing the violence. Is it economics, family, gang-related? We need to drill down and get to the root cause of the problem.”

Former Del. and Community Activist Aisha Braveboy, who is also a leading candidate for States Attorney for Prince George’s County, took to social media to voice her concerns. “Gun violence takes a devastating toll on families and our community, and hurts our local economy. [We need to enhance] resources given to community prosecutors, whose relationships with the community are critical in building trust and securing witnesses.”

Rev. Joseph Braswell, the chief apostle of Joseph Braswell Ministries, said what is happening in the county is symptomatic of a larger problem. “It’s violence all over the country, especially in our Black communities and it seem there aren’t any solutions,” he told the AFRO. “We must address parenting or guardians; these are teenagers with guns. We need more boot camps and we need to make them mandatory. Forget the ACLU, we must take back our communities and families.”

Jerrod Mustaf, president of the Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program in Forestville, said the county needs to put more emphasis on preventive juvenile justice measures. He said he recently presented a $300,000 proposal to the county that has proven effective for curbing violence, but his efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

“We have been doing this for more than 30 years,” Mustaf told the AFRO. “We can get several different nonprofits involved and reach the students before they reach the streets. We know this will work. We have proven it will work if we get the resources we need.”

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