Authorities in Prince George's County announced last week several crime-fighting plans for the summer months, the time of year that they said usually sees an increase in violence.
County Police Chief Melvin C. High unveiled the program at a news conference June 16, held at police headquarters in Palmer Park and attended by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and leaders from more than two dozen state and municipal departments. High said he would use various resources to staff the initiative, including turning to police forces in county towns and cities for help.
"We can't do it alone," Johnson said as he stood next to High, who outlined the elements of the crime-fighting program.
Among the four initiatives discussed at the news conference is one that aims to team county and municipal officers along specific roads that have recorded unusually high numbers of violent crimes and traffic accidents. Dubbed "Operation Safe Corridors," the idea is for officers to work together to hunt for stolen automobiles, target drug dealers and those who carry weapons and to stop drivers who commit various traffic offenses.
Hyattsville City Police Chief Douglas K. Holland said officers from his department recently joined forces with officers from the county's 1st Police District, located in Hyattsville. He said the squads worked together in an area near the West Hyattsville Metro station and that the effort received "positive comments from residents."
"It is just one example and one success story," Holland said, adding that several other partnerships are planned for the summer.
The other county police plans include "Project Drug Abatement," which will team patrol officers with narcotics detectives during the late night and early morning hours, when crime most frequently occurs; an "Auto Theft Initiative," which partners the department's auto crimes team and repeat offender unit to find stolen cars and aggressively target repeat offenders; and the "Enhanced Gang Initiative," an alliance between the various law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute illegal gang activity.
High said the many partnerships will "create a synergy necessary to combat the crime."
"Our strength will be in using officers from the other departments," he said, "and the exponential effect if we all work together."
Statistics released by the county police department show an overall decrease in violent crime this year, including a 47 percent drop in rapes, a 17 percent drop in robberies and a 9 percent drop in burglaries. Homicides, however, have not abated: Through June 22, the county had recorded 63, or five more than for the same period last year.
Officials with the county police union were not as enthusiastic as the police chief, saying that his ideas, while ambitious and well meaning, are simply "old things given new names."
"We've done all of these things in the past," said Cpl. Donnie Bell, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89. "Our concern is that we don't have the manpower to make these efforts successful."
Although the county department has an authorized strength of 1,420, there are only slightly more than 1,200 officers on the official roster. Of those, about 39 percent are assigned to the patrol staff, which means "there are too few officers on the streets," Bell said.
High said additional manpower will be provided through overtime pay and school resource officers, who are assigned to patrol the six police districts during the summer. He said officers from all the municipal departments will also be used to increase the ranks.