Because of an editing error, a story in yesterday's Metro section about Prince George's County efforts to combat illegal drug activities incorrectly identified a park police unit. The unit, which some officials have suggested merging with the county police department is the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission park police. (Published 1/25/88)

Each time it happens, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening gets a telephone call: There's been another murder, an aide reports.

Friday night it was five dead in a Landover apartment. Other calls in recent months have conveyed equally morbid news. A mother beaten to death by her son in Bowie. A woman's body found at the side of a Cheverly road.

Last year, a record 96 homicides were investigated by police in Prince George's County. And the pace of homicides, the most visible and shocking of crimes, appears to have quickened. In the first 23 days of this year, 14 homicides have been recorded.

Last week Glendening embarked on a $6 million war -- primarily involving the hiring of additional police officers and prosecutors -- on the illegal drug trade, which police said was a contributing factor in 38 percent of the county's homicides in 1987 and an apparent element in Friday night's execution-style slayings in Landover.

"It's a sad demonstration of the seriousness of the problem," Glendening said yesterday of the Landover killings. "We're going to need to do a lot more."

The county executive's plan -- primarily to stem the flow of drugs into the county -- is also one to protect the county's image, rapidly being rejuvenated by a showcase school system and upscale office and residential development.

"The crime rate is an embarrassment to the people who live here and know we are moving ahead with education, in building and concrete and mortar but are behind in social issues -- crime being a major issue," said state Sen. Decatur W. Trotter (D-Hyattsville), whose district has some of the areas hardest hit by drug-related crime.

"At some point it will be an Achilles' heel to us unless {Glendening} takes more of a forthright stand on the issues and not just come out with quick fixes," said Trotter, who is often critical of the county executive.

Ironically, the Prince George's antidrug campaign comes as the District is rethinking its controversial Operation Clean Sweep. Some of the tactics used by the District and planned in Prince George's are similar: interdiction of street sales, special-action police teams and seizure of money, cars and real estate bought with drug money. Unlike the District, which chose to pay overtime to officers to provide manpower for the antidrug war, Prince George's County will permanently increase the size of its force.

Although the two adjoining jurisdictions go their separate ways, their drug and crime problems remain interrelated. Glendening and Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty noted last week that crackdowns in the District inevitably affect Prince George's. Particularly in the last six months, Flaherty said, drug dealers could avoid District police by literally walking across the street -- the city borders on Eastern and Southern avenues.

Glendening's antidrug initiative calls for hiring 100 additional officers during the next two years and infusing money into drug enforcement and drug education programs. Although few county officials believe the effort by itself will win the war on drugs, it is seen as an attempt to get a handle on a problem that has become the most noticeable blot on an otherwise shiny picture.

"This is part of the real world, and if you have a crime problem, you acknowledge it up front and try to do something about it," Glendening said Thursday after a news conference announcing the campaign. "It would be foolish to say this would eliminate drugs from our society. It will not, but it will cut substantially into the drug problem."

Reaction to the antidrug campaign was generally positive, and Glendening got praise for launching an effort that some predicted will be -- in terms of political visibility, at least -- comparable to the successful movement begun three years ago to turn around the ailing school system.

The $6 million price tag for the antidrug campaign is much less than the $100 million pumped into the school system by Glendening in the past three years. But Glendening indicated that, other than education spending, the police effort will take precedence over other needs.

"It's a start and I welcome the initiatives. We are going to have to put more people into it to nip it in the bud," said County Council Chairman Frank Casula, who last week wrote a letter to Glendening asking that he make hiring additional police officers a budget priority.

Del. James C. Rosapepe (D-College Park) said, "Parris and the County Council have indicated a willingness to spend some money and to figure out a way of getting the community involved. The drug problem has the potential to do damage" to the county's image.

Rosapepe, who was named last week by Glendening to head a seven-member antidrug citizens advisory committee, represents a district that includes Langley Park, where drug pushers have virtually taken over some apartment complexes.

But some critics wonder if the campaign will bear fruit soon enough. Police officials have said they need at least 1,200 officers to effectively patrol the county, but even with the addition of 100 recruits the force will total only 1,015 officers by the end of 1989. On the street, the effects won't be felt significantly until March of next year, when the first additional police recruits would complete training. There is renewed enthusiasm, however, for merging into the county police department the 80-member U.S. Park Police force, who have had identical training.

And while State's Attorney Alex Williams pledged to seek stiffer jail sentences for drug dealers, officials at the problem-plagued County Correctional Center will face added staffing headaches. Glendening said he has authorized jail officials to begin double-bunking as needed to handle the expected influx of prisoners.

The 10-point antidrug program will be phased in over two years, starting with the creation within 90 days of a 51-member strike force made up of members of the county police, the county Sheriff's Department and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Beginning in July, with the second phase, the county will add 25 police officers every six months to the 915-member force, bringing the total to 1,015 officers by the end of 1989. Five full-time drug investigators will be added to staff a third narcotics squad to conduct surveillance on major drug organizations. Nine positions will be added to the state's attorney's special narcotics prosecution unit.

The police department will step up its policy of seizing all assets used in drug trade, including automobiles, homes, bank accounts and luxury items. Last year, the county netted $1.44 million in assets from drug violators. Officials say they plan to publish the names of all persons arrested for drug offenses.

"Our target is both the pusher and the distributor," Glendening said. "The focus is no longer just the big-time distributor. We intend to disrupt the 'working capital' of drug organizations at all levels."

A seven-member advisory committee will be appointed to work with community groups to initiate drug awareness education programs, establish neighborhood drug prevention networks and work with local businesses to establish drug abuse control programs.

An additional $50,000 in reward money will be added to the Narcotics Informants Fund to encourage information leading to the arrest and conviction of drug dealers. The county Health Department and private treatment centers will be asked to enhance their treatment and counseling programs.

Money to finance the war on drugs will come from a variety of sources. An increase in the apartment licensing fee, paid by building owners, is expected to bring the county $1.6 million annually.

Under a proposal that will be introduced to the County Council Tuesday by Vice Chairman Anthony Cicoria, any amount over the $1.44 million seized in assets from drug sales this year will go into a special account to help cover the costs of law enforment, prosecution efforts and education activities. The amount is estimated to be $300,000 a year.

A $128,000 federal grant and $43,000 county match will be used to pay for the five new drug investigators. The remainder of the cost will come out of the county's general fund and other county needs will "have to be balanced" around the program, Glendening said.

Among the first areas to feel the effects of a drug war may be Glenarden, where 300 residents met last fall to demand that city and county officials clean up Glenarden Apartments, a 592-unit complex that was the site of seven slayings in six months and where one evicted tenant recently left behind $15,000 in illegal drugs and an Uzi submachine gun.

Glenarden Mayor James C. Fletcher Jr. was optimistic that Glendening's war will help him stem the tide in the battle against drugs in his town. A mini-effort launched in the fall after Glendening toured the apartment complex, nicknamed "Crack Alley" by police, has resulted in fewer incidents.

"It's been less visual, less pronounced," Fletcher said. "Certainly, the police department and their high visibility has a lot to do with it."

Strike force: Group will be formed immediately for 90-day assignment.

New employees: 100 additional uniformed officers will be hired in next two years.

More investigators: five full-time positions will be added.

Drug tax: Assets will be seized aggressively and taxes imposed.

Publicized arrests: Names and addresses of abusers will be published.

Increased funding: Narcotics informant fund will be increased by $50,000.

Local, state coordination: Police will take part in regional drug-fighting efforts.

Advisory committee: Seven-member citizens panel will be appointed.

Beefed-up prosecution: State's attorney's special narcotics unit will get financing for nine positions.

More counseling: Drug treatment and counseling programs will be enhanced.