Councilman Obie Patterson described residents in his district as “prisoners in their own homes.” Councilwoman Andrea Harrison wanted to know what could be done to keep prostitutes plaguing a neighborhood behind bars and Chairwoman Ingrid Turner wondered how crime could be going down while murder rates were up.
Virtually no other topic in Prince George’s County draws as much public ire as crime, particularly in the wake of a homicide spree earlier this year.
On Tuesday, officials from the Prince George’s County Police Department and State Attorney’s Office presented to the county council an initiative to aggressively target crime in residential neighborhoods in hopes of countering what has become a traditional summer crime spike. The initiative began in May and will last through September.
The plan involves eight county agencies working together through the arrest, prosecution and sentencing process. Police officials said these agencies would act together in various ways to prevent crime. For example, the Department of Juvenile Services would work with county police to prevent truancy among school students. The Department of Public Works and Transportation would expedite requests to fix street lighting in high-crime areas.
State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said police and the courts would be communicating with her office more effectively.
“It’s a very comprehensive approach in decreasing crime in these areas,” she told the council.
“This is a three-prong table, the sentencing is [left] up to the judges, making sure all parties are on one accord,” she added.
But some council members fired pointed questions at Alsobrooks and Mark Magaw, interim chief of county police.
Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington wanted to know what was being done to stop break-ins and robberies in residential neighborhoods. He said residents in his community were terrified and suffering long response times for service from police.
“The residents of my district don’t feel safe… Many of them come to me and say they feel like prisoners in their own home … There’s no other way to say it,” he said. “The response time is still ridiculous. It takes too long for someone to respond to an incident. We can do better.”
Magaw said police need assistance from the community in reducing crime, including witnesses reporting crimes to police and residents being part of the prosecution process as jurors in the court system.
“The sense of fear has got to be dealt with,” he said. “It’s important for the community to understand we’re in this together.”
Harrison (D-Dist. 5) wanted to know what can be done to keep repeat offenders off the streets. She said a community in her district has been plagued by prostitution. Offenders are arrested, she said, but they quickly return.
“The problem seems to be with not being able to keep those individuals in jail. The punishment is not punitive; they’re doing it over and over again,” she said. “We have a problem with people going to jail and not thinking much of it — they turn around and go again.”
Police officials said that the initiative is focusing on several areas throughout the county, including Glassmanor, Temple Hills, Suitland, Riverdale and Langley Park. Residents in those areas can expect to see increased patrols.
Residents throughout the rest of the county will also see increased community presence, officials said. So far district police stations have been rolling out community walks to raise visibility.
“We’re trying to attack [crime] from multiple levels … bringing resources to the community will bring dividends,” Magaw said.