An article in yesterday's Washington Post incorrectly reported that area crime statistics that were cited were supplied by the FBI. Those statistics actually were reprted to the FBI and the The Post by local police departments.
When the couple was married three years ago, they moved to an apartment in Prince George's County because it was inexpensive and seemed safe. It was not.
Last December, three men robbed the couple at knife-point in their home. The woman was raped. So while many city residents are migrating to suburban Prince George's, the young couple last week moved to Manassas.
"We were thinking about moving anyway . . . ," the 29-year-old woman said. "After the robbery, I knew I would never feel safe there again."
Although crime in Prince George's is still far below that of Washington, the county has a higher number of crimes per 1,000 persons than other suburban communities. And in the first six months of this year, according to FBI crime statistics, burglaries there increased 35 percent and murders more than doubled.
"We must all face the fact," said Kenneth Libby of Beltsville, "that our homes are going to be burglarized sooner or later . . . . Our fear should be that our family, our loved ones, may be safer in a sports arena than in our own homes."
There are various explanations for the high crime rate in Prince George's County, ranging from the lower income levels there -- compared to Montgomery and Fairfax counties -- to increased drug use in the county. Indeed, county police said many of the murders in Prince George's this year were drug-related.
The most common explanation for higher crime rates in Prince George's, however, is geography: Police argue that the crime problem of Prince George's is often the overflowing crime problem of the District.
"We don't have the river to divide us from Washington," said Prince George's homicide Det. Robert Miller, comparing the county to the Virginia suburbs. "A lot of criminals go from one jurisdiction to the other.
"A more affluent area of D.C. abuts Montgomery," Miller said, referring to the affluent Northwest section of D.C. Prince George's is bordered by Northeast and Southeast Washington.
"Montgomery County doesn't have the type of neighborhood we have right on the District line," echoed police officer Carol Landrum, a coordinator of the county's Crime Solvers program. "Neither does Virginia."
Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan also blamed his county's crime problem on Washington: "A very high percentage of the people arrested in Prince George's are D.C. residents."
According to FBI figures, Fairfax County has the lowest crime rate in the area, while Montgomery County has the second lowest. Arlington County has the third-highest crime, although it follows closely behind Prince George's. Washington has the highest incidence of crime in the area.
In Washington during the first six months of 1980, 49.2 crimes occurred per every 1,000 persons. In Prince George's, the figure was 31.4 crimes per every 1,000 people. In Arlington, 29.4 crimes per 1,000 people occurred. In Montgomery, 24.5 crimes per 1,000 people occurred, while in Fairfax, 22.6 crimes per every 1,000 persons occurred.
For the last few years, the pattern among the jurisdictions has been the same, with Washington and Prince George's having the highest crime rates, according to FBI statistics.
Real estate agents in Prince George's County say that prospective buyers ask only occasionally about crime in Prince George's. Those who do ask usually are not from the metropolitan area, one agent said.
"I just tell them that the best place they could get this type of information is from the police department where they are anticipating moving," said Irene Davis, a real estate agent for Town and Country Properties Inc. of Maryland. "Agents don't know that much about what's happening. I just put it off that way."
Prince George's County residents like Libby, who have not been mugged or their homes burglarized, take the view that crime is inescapable -- in Prince George's or Montgomery or Fairfax.
But the young wife who moved to Manassas from Prince George's has a different view: "We've got locks on the windows, we've got dead bolts on the door, and at the next homeowners association meeting we're going to try to convince them to start a neighborhood watch program."