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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Gory Prince George's: Comments on Jack Johnson's latest crime-fighting initiative

Grandstanding outside a "crime-ridden apartment development" very near the former, long-time home of Rep. Steny Hoyer, on March 14, Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson blamed the owners of 22 apartment developments for much of the crime on the county.

Threatening apartment owners. Repeating threats he made in the most recent of a series of ineffective and largely unimplemented crime-fighting plans (Jan. 26, Jan. 25, Jan. 14, Jan. 10, etc.), Johnson threatened to harass the owners and shut down the 22 developments. According to reports of this publicity event by Sudarsan Raghavan in the March 15 Post, and by Robert Arkell in the March 15 Examiner, apartment owners were taken by surprise, receiving little or no advance notice from Johnson's office. One apartment manager complained that requests by apartment owners to meet with Johnson have not been successful.

Misleading information. From Johnson's press release about the event:
Johnson used the Glenarden Apartments as a prime example. Five of the 33 homicides this year have occurred within a one-mile radius of those apartments.
Unfortunately, that statement does not appear to be quite true. Measuring from the approximate center of the Glenarden development, there has been only one homicide well within a one-mile radius, that of Linda Teresa Humphries, about 0.27 of a mile away.

Three other homicides occurred between about 0.84 and 1.02 miles of the development's center; to be fair, each may have happened within one mile of some corner of the development: Michael Edward Montgomery, Darnell Anthony Wright, and Carlos Leon Taylor.

The next closes homicide, presumably the fifth counted by Johnson, was that of Kerry Antonio Bennett, about 1.87 miles from the center of the apartments.

Both Bennett and Humphries were killed in their homes, away from the apartment development. Humphries was the victim of a domestic killing. It is difficult to see how proximity to the Glenarden Apartments could have had anything at all to do with these murders.

Looking at the homicide data from a slighly different perspective, there have been even more homicides within the same distance of police headquarters in Palmer Park (about a mile from the Glenarden Apartments).
Does Johnson plan to blame the staff at police headquarters for nearby murders in in the same way he blames apartment owners for murders near their developments?

Little correlation between murders and targeted apartments. The March 15 Post has a map of the 22 apartment developments threatened by Johnson. Laying those locations over a map of 2005 homicides shows that thre is very little correlation. While the developments cited by Johnson may account for many crime reports, they are not located in the homicide hot-spots.

Where will the people go? Prince George's County has an affordable-housing crisis. Johnson is threatening to close down apartment developments with relatively low rents and thousands of low- and moderate-income minority residents. Where will they go? It is very unlikely that the existing county housing stock can accommodate them. County policies for the past several years have sharply discouraged any development of housing, especially low-cost housing. What little new construction has been allowed is slow, mired in excessive red-tape, with new taxes and fees planned, and is far, far beyond the means of most residents of the 22 developments threatened by Johnson.

So, where will the people go? Johnson's press release is silent on the issue. According to press reports, Del. Joanne C. Benson (D-24), says the county will take care of the residents and "not put them on the street." But Benson doesn't provide any specifics and since she is a state, not county, official, there is no way she can either deliver on such a claim or be held accountable if her claim turns out to be untrue.

Both Johnson and Benson are Black Democrats so the press is apparently giving them a pass on the havoc Johnson's plan could wreak in Prince George's County's lower-income African-American community. Were they white Republicans, they would probably be accused of gentrification, if not of conspiring to drive undesireables (minorities) out of the county.

List of 2005 homicides.
Map of 2005 homicides.
Map of 2005 homicides compared to targeted apartments.
Post map of targeted apartments.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ms. Russell for speaking out on Mr. Johnson's outrageous crime solving plan.

    For months Mr. Johnson has stuck with his absolutely incomprehensible claim that Prince George’s County does not have a crime problem. With almost 30 murders already this year, 5 in just over two weeks, he seams to be completely out of touch with reality. And when he finally, after numerous complaints and criticisms from citizens, perhaps most prominently former Maryland Delegate Rushern Baker, steps up to combat crime, he plan is just plain terrible. Affordable housing is not a crime, but as you smartly noted, it is in serious danger in Prince George’s.

    When Mr. Johnson is not getting his facts strait, I worry that he has alternative motives. Johnson has not even kept his campaign promise to significantly increase the police force. While hiring many new officers, he has lost nearly as many, while lowering budgets, resulting in a reduced police presence over all. Before kicking us from our homes, I hope that Mr. Johnson will first help me feel safe leaving mine.

    I for one, am glad that Rushern Baker and other strong leaders like yourself have stepped up to prevent Mr. Johnson from taking the homes of our fellow county men and women from. Crime is a very serious problem in Prince George’s County and needs to be handled fairly and intelligently. It is time for Mr. Johnson to step up or get out.


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