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Thursday, April 19, 2007

New comment on Re: Prince George's: Latest county murder ignored ....

On 4/18/07, UU-Mom wrote:
UU-Mom has left a new comment on your post " Re: Prince George's: Latest county murder ignored ...":

I appreciate your keeping such good statistics and details. Have you found any patterns that can help us all (not just the police since we all can do things to improve the county)? I asked the police officer tonight at my civic association meeting how we can prevent more of these crimes. He wouldn't give me an "official police statement" but just his "opinion from over 20 yrs. experience" which was that owning one's home is the answer and not having rental units in the neighborhood. Do you see any truth to that?

Posted by UU-Mom to PG-Politics at Thursday, April 19, 2007 12:03:00 AM

Re: Patterns:

The police and press refuse to report much of the information that would make it relatively easy to discern and document useful patterns.

Based on what information is provided to the public, and a limited amount of private correspondence with survivors or other interested parties, I can make several inferences, but can't back them up with good documentation.

It is commonly believed that a very high proportion of the murders involve African-Americans killing other African-Americans. That is probably true, but a significant and growing percentage of the murders seem to involve Latinos as victims and/or killers. I suspect that a fairly high percentage of those cases involve illegal aliens or undocumented persons, if you prefer politically correct euphemisms.

Both police and the press steadfastly refuse to report the race, nationality, or immigration status of victims or killers, even though that information would greatly assist in analysis of the problem and in citizen oversight of law enforcement activities and press coverage. They also generally fail to report the details about killings involving apparent prostitutes, including several recent victims in the hot spots that are underpoliced.

There are and have been a number of hot spots with high numbers of murders. They seem to have moved around a bit over the years I've been tracking murders. For example, in 2005 and early 2006 there were numerous murders in Suitland, in the area across Suitland Road from the Census Bureau and near Suitland Elementary School. Murders are down there over the past year or so, but that hot spot has been replaced by the Glassmanor area, where there have been seven murders so far this year, all within a mile of the district 4 police station.

Long term hot spots include the area around police headquarters, and the area around the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire avenue. The latter area has a large Latino population, both legal and illegal. It is not clear to me if the high murder rate there is related more to the Latino population directly, or to a possible mis-distribution of law enforcement resources and priorities. Nobody really addresses the issues, at least in the press, but it seems to me that our county's policy of routinely avoiding enforcement of one kind of law only encourages people to break other laws and leaves the rest of the area's population more vulnerable to other kinds of crime.

And for the record, I believe strongly in the rule of law and that laws should either be enforced or repealed. As long as we have immigration laws they should be enforced and we should stop sending out signals that people can pick and choose which laws to obey. Were it up to me, I would repeal or substantially revise the immigration laws, but until that happens existing laws should be enforced.

Over the past few years our political leaders have dishonestly and ineffectively tried to use geography to blame various businesses for the murder problem.

First, they insisted on closing liquor stores earlier because of a claim that many murders happened near liquor stores after midnight. The facts say otherwise. The number of murders in the county between midnight and 2:00 am was not any higher than the average for any 2 hour period out of 24, and appears to have been lower than the number of murders near liquor stores during the afternoon rush hour.

Then, Jack Johnson tried to pin the blame on apartment owners. He singled out several apartment developments with nearby murders. But the number of murders around those developments was not statistically different from the distribution of population in those areas. Johnson seemed particularly incensed about the number of murders within a mile of the Glenarden Apartments. During the period involved, there were more murders within a mile of the nearby police headquarters--a fact that Johnson and the press have completely ignored, even after I pointed it out to them.

Most recently, Johnson tried and failed to shut down a number of clubs. It is not clear why he picked the nine clubs he attacked. Several of them seem to have been more or less crime-free, but a higher number of clubs he did not cite have had multiple killings over the past several years, including Legends nee Quonset. Did he pick the wrong clubs deliberately or out of ignorance?

Press coverage of county murders is rather poor--especially if you compare it to press coverage of murders, victims, and killers in other parts of the country. The local press does tend to report a bit more on domestic or home invasion murders than on most other murders. It isn't always possible to tell which killings are domestics as opposed to home invasions or robberies, but it appears that domestic killings are relatively less common than you might expect from press reports, and that many of the domestics are non-spousal--children killing parents or vice versa.

A final observation is that it appears that many of the victims were in places and at times you would not expect to find completely innocent victims. For example, the couple killed recently on 23rd Parkway were parked in a car at 2:00 am in a relatively unsafe area with no open businesses, restaurants, or theaters and were quite far from their homes in Upper Marlboro. Courtney Manning, killed earlier in Clinton, was in a relatively busy area at midnight, but why was a 16 year old from Bowie in that area alone? Earlier in the year, after midnight on the same night, bodies were found behind Suitland High School and in a nearby cemetery. I don't know why any of these victims were in those places at those times, but they are not places I would feel safe going to at those hours.

Re: Home ownership.

I am not aware of any research data on the subject. However, looking both at the general area where I live--roughly zips 20746 and 20748--and the statistics for many of the various small neighborhoods in that area, it appears that the safest places are around owner-occupied single-family homes, and the most dangerous are around rental garden apartment developments. The apartment developments that have converted to condos seem safer that the rental developments. Town houses and duplexes are harder to judge because I don't have good information on which are rentals and which are owner occupied. My personal opinion is that violent crime would probably go down if more renters became owners.


When it comes to computer-driven analysis of crime data, especially geographic, I don't have much confidence in the county government--either the police or the information technology people. I think the county website is deficient from that standpoint and compares very poorly to many other jurisdictions. Crime statistics on the county site are incomplete and out of date. The crime-mapping application, which is supposed to have data for the last ninety days, hasn't been updated since about February 21, and is very user unfriendly compared to what can be found on the web for other large communities. And the county site search engine is one of the most useless ones I've encountered. I setup a custom Google search to find things on the county site. It's not perfect because some of the site is hidden from search engines, but it does a far better job than the county's search engine. If I can do that, why can't our county bureaucracy?

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