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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Police and Crime News and Comments

(Posted 29 Jan 2006)
Summaries and links to earlier Gazette reports mentioned below.
  • Police department plays the blame game; .
  • The Gazette revealed major errors last week in how the Prince George’s County Police Department releases information on homicides [‘‘Our public has the right to know,” Jan. 19]. Dates of shootings were incorrect, e-mailings were not received by all who requested them, information on homicide victims was incorrect and some murders were never posted on the police department’s Web site at all – among other problems.

    With the mistakes pointed out, the police department took the following approach: Blame The Gazette.
    • [See comments at the bottom of this posting.]
  • Police: Citizens ‘see through The Gazette’.
    • Gazette, 26 Jan 2006 (Letter from Police Capt.Andrew Ellis).
    The Gazette’s January 19 article ‘‘Our public has the right to know” is not the first time The Gazette has misled its readers or plain gotten it wrong. Its attempt to convince county residents that the police department is haphazardly reporting homicides is just the latest.

    Our Office of Communications fulfills part of our reporting responsibility to the public through our contact with the news media. We report volumes and we do it constantly, in written form, by phone and in person. In fact, we provide crime data weekly to The Gazette and Washington Post about sex offenses, car jackings, burglaries, assaults, stolen vehicles and thefts.
    [. . .]
    The Gazette, it seems, has a problem keeping tabs on information. . .
    [. . .]
    Chief High and this department are committed to providing accurate and up to date information. The Gazette is excellent at reporting bad news or statistics about crime, and we recognize that’s news. They’re less repetitious and expansive about the things we’re doing to turn things around. We know citizens see the progress, and they can see through The Gazette.
    • [See comments at the bottom of this posting.]
  • Working for a murder-free Prince George’s.
  • . . . Our first problem, shared by our elected and governmental officials, is our assumption that violent crime will happen – that murders are part of the inevitable ‘‘cost of living” in Prince George’s County. The implication is 173 murders in one year, more than double the 2000 total, is acceptable. From north to south, across income and ethnic lines, from politicians to academics, teachers to entertainers, I fear we are becoming numb to the outrage and horror of our escalating crime problem.
    [. . .]
    We must restore our outrage and realize that the murder crisis is something within our control. To turn this around, each of us must assume our individual ability to confront the violence around us, violence that has ended nearly 200 lives in one year.
  • Better leadership sought for police.
  • . . . .amazingly, neither the County Executive, Mr. Jack B. Johnson, nor the chief of police, Mr. Melvin High, could be bothered to personally attend a communitywide gathering and address the concerns of nearly 1,000 residents of Prince George’s County. At best, these men displayed an incredible lack of political astuteness; at worst, their actions bespeak ignorance, incompetence, and a cynical and callous disregard for their constituents.

    Residents of no other county in the state of Maryland would stand for such arrogance and ineffective leadership.
    [. . .]
    Mr. Johnson would do well to realize that, with the November 2006 election quickly approaching, he can ill afford to be perceived as anything other than fully engaged in and committed to solving the problems facing this county.
  • County needs to reverse crime trend.
  • I found The Gazette’s year-end crime reports for Prince George’s County interesting [‘‘Counting the dead,” Jan. 19]. After comparing homicide data for several major cities, I realized how bad the crime situation is in the county.

    The 2005 homicide rate for the county of 20 homicides per 100,000 people was higher than Chicago, which had a rate of 15 homicides per 100,000. Los Angeles had 13 homicides per 100,000 and New York City’s rate was 6.7 per 100,000 people. Prince George’s County’s homicide rate was even higher then Brooklyn, N.Y., which had a homicide rate of about 9 homicides per 100,000 people.

    Prince George’s County is becoming one of the most violent jurisdictions not only locally but also in the nation as a whole, and it is beginning to rank with major cities in its crime and homicide rates.
  • County police department move to beat system wins favor with rank-and-file.
    Six months after the county police union criticized the effectiveness of Community Service Area policing, the Prince George’s County Police have rolled out a hybrid policing strategy that incorporates CSA policing with traditional beats.

    The beat system was used before Police Chief Melvin C. High took over.
    [Full story].
  • Caseload weighs on detectives; Investigators are undeterred .
  • Prince George’s County detectives say one of the greatest obstacles to solving murders is the heavy caseload each detective carries, adding urgency to the county’s continuing quest to fill all its 1,420 authorized police slots.
    Homicide detectives average six to eight cases at a time. Most detectives also act as the secondary investigators for their partners’ cases, which means detectives work 12-16 cases at a time.

    Despite the high caseload, Prince George’s police said they solved 59 percent of all murder cases last year, including some that occurred before 2005.
    [Full story].
  • Memorial honors county homicide victims.
  • An effort to reduce homicides in Prince George’s County, which kicked off with a stirring town hall meeting that attracted hundreds of concerned citizens, is moving to the streets.

    Edmonston Mayor Adam Ortiz (D) says county residents will gather at Riverdale Baptist Church on Tuesday to unveil a memorial and hold a vigil honoring Prince George’s County’s 173 homicide victims of 2005.
    [. . .]
    Organizers said they are hoping that Tuesday’s event and a subsequent town hall meeting scheduled for Feb. 25 at Riverdale Baptist will help continue a dialogue about crime.
    [. . .]

[Comment: I have been tracking and reporting on homicides in Prince George's County for quite some time. As I have recently written to Capt. Ellis, it has often been a frustrating experience.

The Police do not always post homicide information on their website; when they do, it is not always complete. In 2005 the Police, Post, and Gazette each had timely reports on about 85% of the homicides, but not all the same 85%. In my opinion, there is substantial room for improvement in the way the Police Department reports crimes, especially homicides, and I wish they would devote their efforts to making improvements, rather than writing letters to editors trying to defend themselves.

I do note, and appreciate the fact, that press releases for at least two 2006 homicides, not previously posted, were added to the Police Department website on January 29, and they now seem to be up-to-date for 2006]

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