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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gory Prince George's: Gazette special reports

(Updated 20 Jan 2006)
  • ‘Our public has the right to know’; Despite inconsistencies in homicide data, police say they are doing their best
  • The Prince George’s County Police have a haphazard system for reporting homicides to the public that made it difficult to accurately count the murders that set a historic record in the county last year.

    The Gazette conducted an in-depth review of police reports on 2005 homicides and found numerous gaps, omissions and inconsistencies in basic information made public, mostly through the police Web site, about those whose lives ended violently in the county.
    [. . .]
    Diane C. Russell launched Gory Prince George’s, a detailed murder tracking Web site for Prince George’s County, when she noticed inconsistencies in the way the police and the press reported on a neighbor’s murder.

    ‘‘I think poor police reporting of homicides tends to depersonalize the victims and leads to a sort of ho-hum attitude on the part of the public and public officials,” Russell said by e-mail. ‘‘The public needs to know, or at least be able to find out, more so that we can try to hold our elected officials responsible for their failure to protect us.”
    [Read the full report!]
  • Homicides kept rising mainly along District border; County police struggle to pinpoint solutions, reasons for the surge
  • . . . Two police districts that are closest to the Washington-Prince George’s boundary line accounted for 118 of the 174 slayings or 68 percent of the cases. Districts 1 and 3 include Suitland, Capitol Heights, New Carrollton, Brentwood, Morningside and Forestville. The other four police districts had roughly the same number of murders as in 2004.
    [. . .]
    Some officers say it is easy to predict whether the murder rate will rise or decline. Just consider whether lower-level crimes like robbery, carjackings and assaults are increasing or decreasing. As of Dec. 18, robberies were up 25 percent, carjackings had jumped 49 percent and assaults were up 2 percent in the county. Burglaries were down 4 percent, but violent crime overall had increased 13 percent.
    [. . .]
    ‘‘We don’t have an agency that is sufficient size for this jurisdiction,” Gay said.

    The county police force stands at 1.56 officers per 1,000 residents with a force of 1,318, short of the FBI’s national average of 2.6 per 1,000 residents in metropolitan counties. But even if the county reaches its authorized strength of 1,420, it will not meet the national average.
    [. . .]
    Most of the county’s residents are African-American, and so are most of its homicide victims. The number of Hispanics slain rose disproportionately faster than for any other group to 26, compared to 20 in 2004 — a 30 percent increase. Seventeen victims were white and three were Asian.
    [. . .]
    County police say they have developed a plan for responding to the homicides. They began early in 2005 by targeting patrols to the high-crime areas and intensified those patrols in the past six months. The homicide unit also added four more detectives to an existing team of 30 last summer. . . .
  • Watching over the dead
  • . . . Officials referred The Star to the police department’s Web site, stating that press releases done on all the murders could be found there. However, that was quickly found to be incorrect. Making matters worse, information in the press releases was often incorrect, never updated or haphazardly sent out to the community.

    What should have been a simple list to produce turned into more than a month of Star staff sifting through press releases from the department and news articles from media outlets to get an accurate count of who and how many were killed in Prince George’s.

    For those who might not deem a missing press release a big deal, imagine how your family would react to finding out a press release was never sent about your loved one’s death. Furthermore, think about whether you would want to be notified that someone was killed in your neighborhood, where you shop or at your work place.

    Getting this critical information ‘‘most of the time” is not good enough. . . .
    [Full editorial]
  • 2005’s victims: Names and memories
  • This list was compiled from news articles and Prince George’s County Police Department press releases. The comments about those killed were collected by Gazette staff. [See the full list]

Note: I have two nearly complete lists of victims online and will be comparing them to the Gazette list and updating as necessary:
My main pages about each homicie generally include the address, zipcode, and council and legislative districts where the homicide took place. Indexes to homicides by zipcode and district are under construction. They have 2006 data, but not 2005.

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