Prince George’s County law enforcement officials are reporting a record drop in homicides this year, a decrease they are attributing to new law enforcement strategies.
As of Aug. 13, 40 murders have been reported, 30 fewer than the 70 tallied on the same date last year. That represents an almost 43 percent reduction, good news to an urban-suburban county which last year saw 14 killings in the first two weeks of the year.
Last year’s number led county officials to re-evaluate how they were fighting crime overall. On the same date in 2011, the county had 70, which is a 42.9 percent reduction in the murder rate. That caused the county to re-evaluate how it handled fighting crime overall.
Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said that the groundwork for the reduction was actually set in stone last summer when the county launched its Summer Crime Initiative.
“It’s a collaborative sort of effort; it’s the police department, it’s the state’s attorney’s office and we work in conjunction with other agencies,” she said. “It’s designed to target certain areas based on crime information.”
The county took that program and turned it into its Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, which was launched in April 2012. Police officials added more patrol officers and detectives to evening tours of duty January, May and August. Officials said three months are critical to how the county fights crime the rest of the year.
County officials also changed the way non-fatal shootings are investigated. They started allocating more forensic resources to these incidents because, according to Assistant Police Chief Kevin Davis, these crimes would often lead to retaliation and additional bloodshed. The forensics unit was removed from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and a Bureau of Forensic Science and Intelligence was created.
“We need to prosecute people with better and more forensic evidence,” Davis said. “A confession is certainly one thing, but we want the DNA, we want the hair fiber, we want the fingerprints and we want all the other things that go into making a prosecution a good one and a successful one.”
The police department has also re-established its relationship with several federal, state and regional law enforcement agencies. According to Davis, this was important to insure that couny officials could call for help outside the county.
“The world, in general, has certainly gotten smaller,” he said. “Law enforcement – our world has gotten smaller as well. Our jurisdictional lines are blurred. Our bad guys don’t recognize boundaries. Sometimes we get too territorial or too isolated if we just think that we can work within the boundaries of Prince George’s County to impact public safety.”
Meanwhile, the state’s attorney’s office is forging its own partnerships. However, both Davis and Alsobrooks said the most important partnership may be the one between law enforcement and the residents
“The two are not disconnected,” she said. “The crime goes down when the community is engaged. They give us information and they work with us as partners too.”