The city of Bowie has organized a crime prevention program, Bowie Against Burglary, to help homeowners protect themselves against the spiraling burglaries that have plagued the area over the past four years.
The year-old program is headed by Sherry Kinikin, a former government public information officer trained in crime prevention techniques at the National Crime Prevention Institute in Louisville, Ky.
In 1975, Kinikin said, Bowie's burglary rate increased by 67 per cent.
"That averaged a break-in a day and it was still going up," she said. "It went up 10 per cent last year."
In an effort to combat this problem, she said, the City Planning Office applied for and received $57,000 in federal funds to begin a local crime prevention program. By April of 1976, Bowie Against Burglary was in operation with kinikin as director, former resident Elizabeth Lee as assistant, and with 67 community volunteers.
The program is unusual, she said, in that it is run by civilians and operates apart from, though in cooperation with, the Prince George's County police department.
There are four beat officers in Bowie covering 128 miles of roads, and this doesn't include the rural roads," said kinikin in explaining the need for the crime prevention program. "The area has about 10,000 families representing some 40,000 people."
Kinikin said the program stresses crime prevention techniques rather than the use of methods to apprehend offenders.
"If someone should see a crime we encourage them not to get involved but to call the police," she said.
In the way of prevention techniques, Kinikin said residents have established neighborhood patrols, initiated methods to burglar-proof their homes (i.e. locked windows, night lights, etc.) and have marked valuables in Operation Identification.
Operation Identification involves engraving valuables with a resident's Maryland driver's license number. After this is done the resident receives a special Operaration ID sticker which is placed in a conspicuous place on the home to inform possible offenders that all property is marked for indentification. Kinikin said the method is working in discouraging thefts.
"Twelve hundred people have done that, so far," said Kinikin, "and as far as we know only two people have been burglarized. One of them had several portable TVs in the house and they weren't touched.
Electric engraving pens, which write on any surface, are available on a three-to-five-day loan from the Bowie Against Burglary office. Kinikin said additional pens can be borrowed from the library or police department.
During the first five months of 1977, Bowie burglary rate has decreased by 47 per cent, she said. Communities have also applied for and received help from the program.
"In April and May the Pointer Ridge section in the southern end of the city, was plagued with vandalism problems," said Kinikin. "Shaving foam was placed on windshields, car tires were slashed. This generally happened between the hours of 6 to 10.
"A Council member from the city of Bowie called me and asked me if there was anything we could do. A community organizer called a neighborhood meeting and I went down with Prince George's County police office showed some films and talked about what they could do."
Kinikin said the agency always seeks advice from the police department and that an officer is generally available to participate in a crime prevention presentation.
Eventually a neighborhood watch program was organized in Pointer Ridge.
"People would sit outside during the hours the vandalisms occurred, or they would walk their dogs," she said. Kinikin said the method seems to be working.
Bowie's residents, which include some of the best-educated in the county, have a median income level of $19,000. The median age is 19.
Kinikin feels that some of these factors are the very elements contributing to the burglary rate. She attributes much of the crime to Bowie's youthful population, explaining that the youngsters getting into trouble for a lack of something to do.
Arrest figures for 1973-74 show that of 81.1 persons apprehended, two-thirds of them were between 13 and 17, she said. "We've learned that most of the burglaries committed in Bowie are by Bowie teens with an average age of 15.8," she added.
"The police will tell you there's just not enough for the teen-agers to do out here."
Although Bowie Against Burglary has not established a program to deal directly with youths, Kinikin said the agency communicates with the Youth Services Bureau about the problem.
Within recent months, Prince George's County police have extended Bowie's crime prevention methods to the entire county. Engraving pens, brochures and various crime prevention material can be obtained from the county police by calling 336-8800, said Kinikin.
The number forBowie Against Burglary is 262-6262.