New state's attorney, sheriff will face challenges in crime-plagued Prince George's County

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010

Angela Alsobrooks, who is almost certain to be the next state's attorney in Prince George's County, said her most ambitious goal as the county's top law-enforcement official would be to replicate a high-profile California program designed to break the cycle of crime. She also pledged to actively court community involvement.

"We need their engagement," Alsobrooks said.

In the sheriff's race, former county Police Chief Melvin C. High, who has what appears to be an insurmountable lead over the closest candidate as final primary votes are being tallied, said he would insist on the highest standards of training for his staff and deputies and on greater transparency for the public.

"The public has a right to know what we're doing and what we're about," High said Friday.

Both presumptive winners in last Tuesday's primary face considerable challenges taking on crime in the Washington region's third-largest jurisdiction.

Though crime has fallen to record low levels in Maryland, Prince George's still suffers the state's second-highest violent crime rate, and it exceeds every other jurisdiction in rapes, stolen vehicles and burglaries.

While several candidates in the five-way race for state's attorney spoke about the need to hire more prosecutors, the county also faces daunting economic problems.

Prince George's County has the highest number of foreclosures in the state and a tax base that is only about 44 percent of neighboring Montgomery County's.

"They need more person power, because the caseload is overwhelming," said Dorothy "Carolyn" Lowe, president of the Williamsburg Estates Citizens Association.

"Now the office has to find the funds to hire these state's attorneys," Lowe said.

Having all but locked up the position through her victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Alsobrooks said she hopes to develop a program to reduce criminal recidivism by turning to tactics that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has used.

Harris, a Democrat who is the first African American woman to serve as San Francisco's DA and is now running for California attorney general, has achieved national prominence for innovative approaches to crime fighting, including the Back on Track program for nonviolent first offenders.

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