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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gory Prince George's: Towns claim larger police role

(Updated December 1, 2005)
"Towns claim larger police role; More control close to home"
Gazette, November 17, 2005 (by Tiesha Higgins, Staff Writer)
Residents of Bowie and College Park have voted to shoulder the cost of creating their own police forces, casting a new light on the strains facing the Prince George’s County Police Department.

The county force is struggling with persistent staffing problems, chronic complaints about slow response times and a spike in violent crimes, including carjackings and robberies.

Prince George’s already has surpassed the number of murders for all of 2004 and, with six weeks left in the year, could easily top the number of homicides ever recorded here.

‘‘I think it does say something about people’s concerns where public safety is concerned,” Councilman Thomas R. Hendershot (D-Dist. 3) of New Carrollton said of the votes. ‘‘Certainly there has been much attention to various trends in crime in Prince George’s County and inevitably people are going to react to that.”

‘‘It’s the amount of service the county police force is able to provide the city that’s an issue,” said Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson, citing police response times. ‘‘Our community was looking at what is the best option for us – to hope for the best down the road or to assume more responsibility for our own destiny.”
[. . .]
The county police force is 133 officers short of its authorized staff level, with 1,287 officers or 1.53 officers per 1,000 residents. The national average for metropolitan counties is 2.6 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the FBI. The department expects to swear in another 49 officers next month, but it is likely to lose other officers to attrition. . . .
[. . .]
County Police Chief Melvin C. High says he isn’t disturbed by the trend.

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