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Prince George's County crime rate is lowest since 1975

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 8, 2010; B10

Crime in Prince George's County hit record lows in 2009, dropping in every major category from the previous year to hit an overall rate not seen since at least the Ford presidency, officials said at a news conference Thursday.

The county recorded 5,604 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2009, the lowest rate since at least 1975, the last year for which comparable figures are available in Prince George's.

Prince George's Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton credited the drop to a crackdown on nightclub violence, an increased focus on "community policing" and his efforts to hold officers accountable for their actions.

Data reflect the success of these initiatives, he said. Nightclub-related homicides fell from 12 in 2008 to four in 2009. Total crime, which might be deterred by the efforts of community officers working their beats, fell 12.2 percent. Officer-involved shootings were cut in half, and complaints about excessive force, harassment and language dropped substantially.

"This is remarkable, remarkable work," Hylton said. "We're doing this while maintaining our professionalism."

The drop in crime is consistent with other jurisdictions across the region. D.C. police, for example, reported a 45-year low in homicides.

Prince George's had good news on the homicide front, too: Detectives could boast a 79 percent closure rate for the department's 92 slayings in 2009. The rate, bolstered by a few cold case closures, is the highest in recent memory, just as the number of homicides is the lowest since 2000.

Maj. Lawrence Gordon, commander of the police department's criminal investigations division, said there are more homicide and cold case detectives working now than ever before (33, plus six sergeants). That, combined with the reduced number of slayings, helps minimize each detective's case load, he said.

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