Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Police Chief Melvin C. High attempted to reassure residents yesterday that although violent crime is surging in the county, the police department has a plan to address it.
"The citizens need to know this isn't a hodgepodge," Johnson said. "We have a comprehensive plan."
At an afternoon news conference, the county's top elected official and the police chief detailed police initiatives and task forces that focus on specific areas, including the sometimes dangerous border corridor near the District. Johnson noted that many of the initiatives, including one to address a growing gang problem, have been in place for several months, and he said residents have to be patient to give the plan time to work.
"We have a plan designed for long-term success," he said. "Our citizens understand this. They understand this will not happen overnight. I will not waver to get results.
"At the end of the year, we'll see where we are," he said.
The county officials explained the plan hours after three people were shot in Prince George's, including a 17-year-old. The teenager was paralyzed by the gunfire, according to a police source who did not want to be identified because the cases are still open.
Additionally, a man who was shot early yesterday was dropped off at Prince George's Hospital Center, although investigators have not determined whether he was shot in the county or in the District, police said.
This year, homicides and rapes are each up 28 percent from the same time last year, carjackings have increased 45 percent and robberies are up 127 percent, according to police data.
Johnson tried to cast the statistics in a positive light, saying that although crime is higher now than it was last year, the numbers have been stable for the past two months. "Violent crime is not accelerating," he said. "The last two months have taken us to a place where we are not rising anymore."
Elements of the plan include hiring more police officers for the chronically short-staffed department, focusing on "hot spot" high crime areas, targeting car thieves and working with federal agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Additionally, the department started a task force last week to combat robberies. Task force members will work with parole and probation officers to monitor past offenders in an effort to keep them from committing more crimes.
High attributed the sharp jump in robberies this year to criminals' "economic issues," such as addicts stealing money to buy drugs.
The police chief also said the criminal justice system has contributed to the 57 percent recidivism rate in the county. "We must find a way to stop the revolving door," High said. "We can lock up all the criminals, but if they do not stay in jail, we have not solved the problem. The system has to work in its entirety."
State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, who attended the news conference, said his office is committed to working with police and the county administration to reduce crime. "It's clear we're all working together," Ivey said.
Ivey recently called for increased coordination with federal law enforcement agencies and a broader look at homicide patterns.
High referred to the county as an "urban center," and he said the crime problem has been challenging for the department. "The reality is that violent crime is a part of our society, and to curb it takes deep thought, assessment and analysis of the circumstances of our community to develop a plan unique to our county," he said.
Rushern L. Baker III, who plans to challenge Johnson for the Democratic nomination in 2006, said the department is full of "failed policies," and he called for a new crime fighting plan. He has called several times for High's resignation.
"If you're coming out with the same plan you had eight months ago, it's not working," Baker said. "It sounds like the same thing they've been doing, which clearly is not working. The numbers are much worse. You look at homicides compared to last year, it's off the charts."
Percy Alston, president of the Prince George's police union, said he was "appalled" by the homicide numbers.
"I'm not happy with that statistic. I don't think any police officer is happy with that," Alston said. "Our goal is zero crime in the county. We should be able to bring crime down. Once we get resources in place and the right strategy, we're going to get that done."
Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this article.