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Killings In D.C. Fewest Since '86

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said in an interview this week that he intends to launch an effort that will focus more attention by social workers, city officials and police on high-risk youths in the juvenile justice system.

"We can do a better job across the line," Williams said.

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In Prince George's, police officials said they have been unable to identify any patterns in last year's killings. The death toll was more than double the 71 people slain in 2000 and rivals totals in the early to mid-1990s.

The victims included a man who was fatally shot inside a Bladensburg nightclub, a high school senior killed because he offered to buy a Slurpee for a young woman he had just met, a cabdriver who was found fatally wounded in his taxi, and a mother of four who was stabbed to death, allegedly by her live-in boyfriend.

Fifteen of last year's victims were juveniles, up from 10 in 2003, county police said.

"We keep looking at the numbers, and we can't really put our fingers on the increase," said Lt. Larry Gordon, commander of the Prince George's homicide division. "It's upsetting and discouraging. . . . There's just a total . . . disregard for life out there."

Although about 85 percent of the year's slayings occurred in the communities nearest the District line, Prince George's police said they saw no connection between trends in the two jurisdictions.

"We're not seeing a greater number of D.C. suspects or victims, at least not any more than we've seen in the past," Gordon said.

The majority of the slayings in Prince George's took place after adults fought and one of them fired a gun; 118 of the slayings involved firearms, and 16 involved knives. In 42 of the killings, a dispute escalated to homicide, Gordon said. He said the motive was unknown for another 40.

After nine people were killed in a six-day period in August, Prince George's Police Chief Melvin C. High vowed to assign more officers to the streets and targeted the county's most dangerous neighborhoods -- including parts of the Fairmount Heights, Suitland, Oxon Hill and Temple Hills areas.

While D.C. and Prince George's officials concentrate on homicide rates, most other jurisdictions in the area spend much of their time battling less serious violent crime and property offenses.

In Montgomery through the end of September, the last month for which statistics were available, police had recorded a drop in all categories of serious crime, except aggravated assault, which remained about even. But they appeared to be losing ground against such crimes as forgery, bad checks, embezzlement, vandalism and prostitution.

In Howard County, police have been battling an increase in juvenile crime. Police said they have had increases in the number of youths arrested in robberies and assaults. Frederick County deputies said they are trying to clamp down on vandalism.

In Virginia, the violent crime rate remains fairly low in Fairfax County despite a population that has risen to more than 1 million people in recent years. But robberies and aggravated assaults were up last year.

Many assaults, thefts and sex crimes are rooted in domestic disputes, according to Fairfax police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings.

In late November, police launched a pilot program that placed an officer specializing in domestic violence cases in five of the county's eight police stations.

Prince William police said the county has had a rise in violence involving Latino gangs. Such gangs as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and South Side Locos are spray-painting fences and buildings and often fighting each other at homes or near public buildings, police said. In August, an MS-13 member was executed, police said.

New state laws have empowered the police department's gang unit to charge gang members with recruiting juveniles, Prince William authorities said.

Staff writers Michelle Boorstein, Karin Brulliard, Nicole Fuller, Tom Jackman, Allison Klein, Fredrick Kunkle, Jerry Markon, Joshua Partlow, Arthur Santana, Ian Shapira and David Snyder and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

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