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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Murders in Hillcrest Heights, Reply to PG=Chicago? Judging by a pair of 15 y.o.'s (and their killers), we are close. Too close.

My comments on "PG=Chicago? Judging by a pair of 15 y.o.'s (and their killers), we are close. Too close." by Andy Carruthers (below)

The recent murders of Charles Walker and Eugene Walker (unrelated) both took place in the Hillcrest Heights community, about a half mile apart.

As Mr. Carruthers indicates, most or all of the accused/confessed killers of Charles Walker have criminal records.  Most of the times these killers have been arrested the states attorney's office has dropped the charges.

Duane Lamar Williams, accused killer of Eugene Walker, who police allege was high on PCP, also has a criminal record. He was arrested on drug charges as recently as Nov 2012. Disposition: NOLLE PROSEQUI. Attorney: Pro-crime, pro-criminal powerful Delegate Joseph Vallario. If the states attorney's office had proceeded with the prosecution, and/or Williams had been locked up or sent to treatment, Eugene Walker would probably still be alive.

Both of these killings took place in council district 7.  Charles Walker was killed in legislative district 24.  Two of his accused killers live in the same districts, within a couple blocks of the murder site.  Judging from the information on the PGPD blog, the Eugene Walker incident began in legislative district 26 and ended across the street in legislative district 24. 

The Hillcrest Heights community has a very active citizens association.  Local elected officials often attend or send a representative to their meetings.

The citizens association met last night (February 21).  Captain Garrett, assistant commander of police district 4 make a lengthy presentation about these two killings and about the body found February 4 in the park adjacent to the meeting site. He answered numerous questions trying to address the concerns and fears of the community.

District 7 councilwoman Karen Toles sent a representative to the meeting.  I am told by someone who was present that none of the eight elected officials from  legislative districts 24 and 26 were present and that none of them appeared to be represented by staff.  Nor was anyone from the states attorney's office present.

Perhaps since homicides in the Hillcrest Heights area are so routine (see attached map) and since we have a one-party system that all but guarantees reelection, these elected officials are no longer particularly concerned about the gore in their districts.  Most of them seem more interested in passing laws to protect killers by repealing the death penalty and by passing even more ineffective gun laws.  We have plenty of gun laws that are not being enforced.  Some of the folks below supported a gun criminal for the delegate seat that went to Darren Swain.  But rather than get the gun criminals off the streets, our elected officials seem more interested in punishing the innocent and preventing victims from defending themselves.

The AWOL elected officials who claim to represent the murder areas are:

On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 9:52 PM, Andy Carruthers wrote:

15 y.o.'s MURDERED: Chicago's Hadiya Pendleton = Prince Georges County's Charles Walker, Jr?!

Like Hadiya Pendleton, the 15 y.o. murder victim in Chicago invoked by President Obama, Prince Georgians this week saw the tragic shooting death of 15 y.o.  Charles Walker, Jr, reportedly  when being robbed of a pair of Timberland boots.  While we still await the details, the obvious similarity, of course, is the use of an illegal firearm to kill a seemingly innocent young person of color.

It's the offenders, folks.
The less obvious but more emblematic factor in common may be the history of the killers.  In Chicago, 18 y.o. Michael Ward had been convicted three times for violent crimes and was on probation, NOT parole, for a handgun charge at the time of Hadiya's killing.  Worse, he had been arrested three times while on probation before the killing, but never incarcerated. (Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-hadiya-pendleton-probation-20130212,0,1383301.story  )  

Because one offender has many victims in Prince Georges, as in Chicago.
Here in Maryland, Charles Walker was reportedly gunned down by a group including 21 year-old Kevin J. Smith, whose prior arrests include multiple counts of attempted murder with a handgun, according to online court records—charges which had been dropped entirely.  I hope the paid scribes can dig up an explanation.  Sadly, this was by no means an extraordinary example of dysfunctional criminal justice in Maryland, but it may well stand out, for the moment, as the most outrageous in Prince George's County. 

Impunity cannot be tolerated as normal.
Whether the problem was uncooperative victims, witnesses lacking credibility or courage, issues in the police investigation, other shooters, a hostile judge and/or other prosecutorial burdens, I simply don't know.  But when we fail so flagrantly to put known violent offenders out of harm's way---and fail to protect the community by incarcerating them---we have no credibility as a community interested in justice.  Not when so many volatile young men in this county (and Baltimore) over the years can claim a nefarious history of escaping accountability for prior offenses.  Minor offenses. Serious offenses.  Impunity seems common.

Criminal justice is not just a bourgeois ideal.
In contrast to some, I'm not so cynical as to believe criminal justice is just a bourgeois ideal; but I want to know what is it about this county, especially, which causes violence to flourish disproportionately, decline more slowly than elsewhere, and allows predators to stay so often free?  Why do we expect, much less tolerate, dysfunction and misconduct?   I don't know the detailed facts of Charles Walker's killing nor the reason one of his alleged murderers was previously accused without result of attempting kill others with an illegal gun.  But the consequence of patterns like these are plain to see: people lose faith in government's ability to deliver justice and some measure of local security. 

Sometimes, though, it seems more appropriate to lose faith in the community's collective willingness to do the right thing---to normalize peace and activate justice---and to commit the resources, moral and financial, that criminal justice requires.  By almost any standardized measure Baltimore spends much more money, controlling for population and crime rates, prosecuting criminals than our county, perhaps because Prince Georges elites like to pretend our crime rates are unexceptional or because conviction has fallen out of favor (in more ways than one).  Our crime rates are very exceptional.  Yes, most area crime is down sharply over prior years; 2012 murders down some 35% from 2011, if memory serves; and anomalous surges or spectacles don't merit a panic.  But why do we still have so much violence---and so much more than other places, other comparable communities?

Why does Maryland have the fourth highest per capita murder rate in the U.S.?
Why, indeed, does Maryland have the fourth highest murder rate in this country (tied with South Carolina according to FBI/UCR 2011) when we have the highest median household income among states (Census 2010) and, it is claimed, the country's overall best public schools?!!  What's more, why is such violence overwhelmingly concentrated in Baltimore and Prince George's?   Urbanization and age cannot explain it all.  Why do these catastrophic moral failures tend to step off so often here?  Why are most of our killers in Maryland so very similar to most of our killed---their demographic background and, more importantly, criminal history?  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/breaking/bs-md-ci-homicide-analysis-20120102,0,5874176.story  And why are we so frequently unsuccessful at keeping them contained and safe after they offend, brazenly, over and over again?  

Answers vs Results?  Acknowledge the latter even if the former are unclear.
I don't know all the answers, but Prince George's County can bank on seeing more middle class exodus and reputational damage if the community and, therefore, its institutions fail so often to deliver justice or security.  People may leave quietly, but continue to leave they will.  Unless we all step up and re-commit to keeping our neighborhoods safe from predators, instilling durable values in our children, and demanding accountability from those who would victimize us----and from those whose mandate is to protect us all from them.  You may have noticed, arguments about 'profiling' becomes pretty much moot in a county that is only about 15% white, strained by crime, and policed mainly by men and women of color.  Teach, reiterate and exemplify values, civility and compliance with law---and help law enforcement to contain those who would harm us and each other.  In some areas, that would be a fine start, from the looks of things.

Stop teaching hopelessness.  For real.
That's right, I said it.  In trying to steel our youth against discrimination, prepare for the worst, we teach them to expect it.  Is there any greater single explanation for the routine hopelessness which so pervades our young people?  If you wanted to quash hope, the first thing you would do is train people to believe they have no agency and little prospect of success---teach that the deck is stacked.   Instead of learned helplessness and the festering resentments which predictably result, why not teach self-control, determination and optimism?  Like it or not, hope is a zero sum game inside a single mind.   If we teach young people and adults alike to expect bias, powerlessness and injustice, why are we surprised when so many young men and boys feel emboldened by violence, validated by the taken trappings of crime, and empowered (briefly) by weapons?  We teach them to expect injustice and---surprise!---they not only find it, many deliver it. 

Perhaps, as adults and parents, we should work harder to conceal our own fears and doubts about America, about ourselves even.  Instead, show hope and model responsibilty and agency more than we might now---as I try daily and sometimes succeed.   Because the collective price of teaching defeatism is increased crime, much misery and diminished prospects, whatever the economy.   Hope is priceless, but parents can steal it quicker than anyone else.  Even by accident.   And popular culture is quick to re-victimize us all in this regard. 

Some of us need to quit posturing and straight-up start snitching.
Some Prince Georgians bristle or balk when the subject of crime arises, fearing racism and deflecting criticism with cliches like "crime happens everywhere."  Nonsense.  Crime concentrates disproportionately here, and pretending otherwise won't make us any safer on the whole.  Remember: crime control is the mission police most want to accomplish, believe it or not.  Unless you're an active criminal (and usually even then) your safety is their goal.  Help them.
I tend to think the current County Executive is committed to facing these issues head on, but the County Council and our delegation to Annapolis, not so much, I suspect.  We need to stop worrying about our County's reputation and start worrying much more about the fundamentals of public safety, levels of fear, and quality of life (and, no, not about recruiting glamorous stores into our malls).  Enough with the thin-skinned denials and the superficial priorities.  Time to demand more from ourselves, each other and our children.  Strong values and subsequent security, in and around our schools, streets, homes and families will go far further toward ushering in prosperity, commerce and tranquility than any other factor.  Let it be so.  Make it be so.  Time to testify.  Faith is required, even if trust is in short supply.
Andy Carruthers

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