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Monday, November 14, 2005

Gory Prince George's: Updated: Post says homicides might break record

(Updated November 14, 2005)
"Pr. George's Homicides Might Break 1991 Record"
Post, November 13, 2005 By Allison Klein, Washington Post Staff Writer
Includes summary data on ages, places, weapons, and motives.

Some comments: This Post report is both one of the better reports this year on murders Prince George's County, but also disappointingly superficial.
Post: With about seven weeks remaining in 2005, Prince George's County has outpaced its killing total for last year and is on the brink of an alarming milestone: breaking its all-time high for homicides.

This year, 152 people have been slain in Prince George's, four more than for all of last year. In 1991, the county logged a record high of 154.
Comment: Although the Post counts 152 homicides this year, the number may actually be higher. No single news source has reported on all homicides in the county. If you look at all the incidents identified as homicides in the following sources:
  • Examiner, Gazette, and Post news stories,
  • Gazette and Post weekly crime reports,
  • Prince George's County Police news release website, and
  • nbc4.com, wjla.com, and wtopnews.com
the total probably exceeds 160. A few of those may have been determined not to be homicides, but lacking a single reliable authoritative source, it is all but impossible to be certain.

The Post (about 90%) and Gazette (about 85%) are the most likely to provide timely reports of homicides in the county. The Police Department presumably issues press releases for most or all of them, but only about 80% are online. The Examiner has fallen far behind in contemporaeous reporting, but has published several retrospective summaries, more frequently early in the year than recently. nbc4.com and wjla.com are spotty but tend to report about half of the murders online (wjla.com reports are often removed after a period of time), and wtopnews.com falls somewhere behind them. Other local news outlets often have print or broadcast reports, but rarely post the information on their websites.
Post: The understaffed department also is in the midst of an aggressive hiring push. It now has about 1,300 sworn officers, more than 100 fewer than the department is authorized to have, Alston said.
Comment: Not only does the county consistently fail to keep all authorized positions filled, the authorized staffing is pitifully low compared to other jurisdictions with similar population, demographics, and crime, which tend to have up to twice as many officers per capita as Prince George's County.

From reviewing press reports about police staffing, it would appear that no local elected official has made any serious effort to propose either an increase in authorized staffing or a serious independent study of police staffing needs.

Local press and broadcast outlets have done little or nothing to educate the public about police staffing levels or to put it in perspective when compared to other jurisdictions.
Post: The county's first homicide of the year occurred Jan. 3, a Monday, on Suitland's dangerous Hudson Avenue. Shawn Chambers, 24, was fatally shot in front of his home at 9 a.m., a case that remains open.
Comment: The Chambers murder was ignored by the Post at the time. It took place at 9:00 in the morning about a block from the new Suitland Elementary School, which now opens at 9:15 in the morning. That school was recently in the news because many parents fear having their children walk to it because it is in the middle of a center of drug activity and homicides. So far this year there have been seven murders within three blocks of the school, and about twenty within the mile and a half that the school board considers reasonable walking distance.
Post: Between the Chambers and Pickett cases, there were more than two dozen drug-related slayings, a half-dozen gang-related killings and nine domestic homicides, among others, according to police data.
Comment: There is some indication that many of the gang-related murder victims and perpetrators were in this country illegally--a fact that the Post and other local media almost always fail to report. That failure often makes me wonder what else they fail to report.
Post: Measures of violent crime in Prince George's other than homicide have already surpassed last year's totals. Robbery is up 23 percent from this time last year, and carjackings have jumped by 59 percent.
Comment: Violent crime is up substantially in the county, but there is little or no movement by our all-Democratic elected officials to deal with it, and equally little or no outrage shown by the media. I can't help wondering if the media and public would be so easy on an all or majority Republican administration that tolerated such high and increasing levels of violent crime.

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