Langley Park Reeling After Slashings of 5 Victims in 5 Days

Lazaro Escobar Cruz watches over a memorial for brother Anival Hernandez Escobar Cruz, who was killed in a knife attack last week. His body will be flown to Honduras tomorrow  for burial.
Lazaro Escobar Cruz watches over a memorial for brother Anival Hernandez Escobar Cruz, who was killed in a knife attack last week. His body will be flown to Honduras tomorrow for burial. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)
By Allison Klein and Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On the streets of Langley Park, vendors sell $1 chunks of watermelon with your choice of salt or hot sauce. They will tell you about the drug dealing in the neighborhood, but not before their eyes dart around to see who is watching.

In a span of five days in this neighborhood, four throats were slashed, and one man's hand was nearly severed by the slice of a machete. The attacks, which have killed two men, took place within five blocks of one another, sending a shock of fear through this community.

Prince George's County police are investigating the three incidents, the first of which was early Wednesday in the parking lot of a Toys R Us. Police have made no arrests and say the attacks are not connected.

"Five violent crimes in five blocks in five days. It's horrifying," said Kim Propeack, advocacy and organizing director for Casa of Maryland, a Latino community group.

Troubled by crime for years, Langley Park, a community that covers about one square mile, has been part of crime-fighting and renewal efforts by law enforcement and neighborhood groups. The densely populated, unincorporated area of Prince George's is bounded by University Boulevard, the Montgomery County line and the community of Adelphi.

Like such communities as Culmore and Baileys Crossroads in Fairfax County and Arlandria in Alexandria and Arlington, Langley Park is heavily Latino.

The 2000 Census counted 16,214 people in Langley Park, nearly 64 percent of them of Hispanic origin. Most are foreign-born, most rent and most speak Spanish or another foreign language at home. The area is also home to many other recent immigrant groups from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.

"It's an extraordinary neighborhood. It also has a lot of problems. It's a large number of people packed into a very small place with relatively few government services," Propeack said.

By day, laborers can be seen in clusters on the streets looking for shade and waiting for work. Women say they won't walk to the store alone, and some won't leave their homes at night. They won't wear short skirts, they say, because the men will ask them, "How much?"

Last night, about 100 people gathered at the Langley Park Community Center to voice their anger at the crime in their area. Speaking to senior police officials and county State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D), some in the audience demanded more police foot patrols.

In recent years, immigrant advocates have created services to help the newcomers, including a medical clinic, legal aid and an employment center. Meetings about how to combat crime are held at Langley Park-McCormick Elementary School and the neighboring community center.

Neighborhood watches have been established. Pedestrian safety also has been a concern after fatal car accidents in an "international corridor" of businesses along University Boulevard, where big corporations such as Starbucks and Chevy Chase Bank are located near smaller stores with such names as Fashion La Fama, Casa Furniture and Casa Blanca Bakery.


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