The 14 homicides in Prince George's County last month tied a record for slayings in one month and doubled the next-highest number of homicides recorded there in any January, police said yesterday.
At the current pace, the one-year record of 96 county homicides, set last year, would fall by Aug. 1.
Drugs were the largest single factor in the 14 slayings in January, police said. Among the January deaths were seven homicides within 24 hours, including the five victims of an apparently drug-related slaying whose bodies were found Jan. 22 in a Landover apartment with bullet wounds in their heads and chests.
Police have made no arrests in the Landover killings, but investigators are looking for three men who were seen leaving the area near the apartment shortly after the shootings.
The 14 homicides last month equal the total slayings last October, which set the one-month Prince George's record, police said. The next-highest number of slayings in a January was recorded in 1982, police said, when seven homicides occurred.
In the District, where police saw a record number of homicides in 1987 -- many of them related to drugs -- the first month of 1988 saw a one-month record number of homicides. Thirty-seven persons were killed in the District in January. The city's previous single-month record for homicides was 32 in December 1971.
District officials blame the rising homicide rate on the explosive growth in sales of illegal drugs, which police said is linked to 60 percent of homicides in the city.
County police had the same response when questioned about the high number of homicides in Prince George's.
"It's drug sales," said Sgt. Mark Wright, a county police spokesman. "In the entire Washington metropolitan area over the last several years there has been an increase in drug trafficking. With increased sales comes an increase in drug-related crimes, including homicides."
County officials say they are working to see that no more homicide records fall.
County Executive Parris Glendening has set up a 10-point plan to curb drug trafficking and its associated crimes in the county. His effort includes hiring 100 police officers over two years and adding five slots for the county's narcotics squad. Also, the county has set up a 51-member strike force of county police and sheriff's deputies and police officers from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to target neighborhoods hit hardest by escalating drug sales.
Wright, the county police spokesman, said police are uncertain whether the violence will escalate further before it eases. "We are hoping that our antidrug efforts will stop some of this," he said. "We are certainly going to try to reverse this."