Where Is the Out­rage?

Prince Ge­or­gians Must De­mand Bet­ter

The Washington Post Sunday - - Close To Home - — John S. Keif­fer

When is enough enough? Last month, in a quiet, friendly neigh­bor­hood in Prince Ge­orge’s County, a 40-year-old Lan­ham wo­man was killed in­stantly while pre­par­ing to leave for work. She was ap­par­ently the un­in­tended vic­tim of a drive-by shoot­ing. Thus be­gan a spate of 11 killings in 11 days in the county, most of which in­volved a gun as the weapon of choice.

An ar­rest has been made in the Lan­ham killing, yet most of the homi­cides re­main un­re­solved. And, be­cause this is Prince Ge­orge’s County, the vic­tims are mere sta­tis­tics in an­other vi­o­lent year, most name­less and face­less.

As a county res­i­dent, I am ap­palled and ou­traged. For too long what would be anath­ema in most other ju­ris­dic­tions has been tol­er­ated in Prince Ge­orge’s. When is enough enough? Forty-eight peo­ple have been killed al­ready in 2007. How many more have to die be­fore the level of vi­o­lence be­comes un­ac­cept­able?

Where is the out­rage among my fel­low Prince Ge­or­gians? Why is this tol­er­ated? Where is our county’s lead­er­ship? Does one dare ask if this is a racial is­sue? Is it not the un­der­ly­ing as­sump­tion that black peo­ple — who are the sta­tis­ti­cal ma­jor­ity of both the vic­tims and the per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lent crime in the county — are pre­dis­posed to vi­o­lence?

I re­ject that no­tion out of hand. And yet, as vi­o­lence in our county is al­lowed to con­tinue, does not this re­pug­nant stereo­type in­form our stand­ing through­out the re­gion? It’s as if there is a wink and a nod: “Well, you know, it is P.G. County, with its ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tion and all. What do you ex­pect?” Th­ese un­spo­ken racial in­sin­u­a­tions can no longer be tol­er­ated.

Hard ques­tions need to be asked of County Ex­ec­u­tive Jack B. John­son, of the County Coun­cil, of mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers and, re­ally, of all Prince Ge­orge’s res­i­dents. Why in a county of such af­flu­ence is the homi­cide rate so high? Why is there so much vi­o­lence and prop­erty crime? Would this be ac­cepted in Mont­gomery, Fair­fax, Prince William, Howard, Calvert or Charles coun­ties? It would not.

The county ex­ec­u­tive is se­ri­ous about the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial in Prince Ge­orge’s, and I be­lieve he is sim­i­larly se­ri­ous about his Liv­able Com­mu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive. A new Weg­man’s is to be built in Largo. A multi­bil­lion-dol­lar de­vel­op­ment at Na­tional Har­bor is un­der con­struc­tion in Oxon Hill. A fully funded school board bud­get is near­ing ap­proval. Many homes are sell­ing in the mil­lion­dol­lar range. A D.C.-Prince Ge­orge’s cross­bor­der crime-fight­ing pro­gram re­cently was in­tro­duced. All in gor­geous Prince Ge­orge’s. All are won­der­ful ini­tia­tives, I’m sure.

But where is the out­rage over the vi­o­lence and homi­cide? How many more in­no­cent vic­tims — or not-so-in­no­cent vic­tims, for that mat­ter — have to die?

The bot­tom line is clear. If a 40-year-old wo­man can be gunned down in her home, then no res­i­dent, no busi­ness owner and no prop­erty owner in the county is safe. This is an ur­gent mat­ter of pub­lic safety. If this level of vi­o­lence is al­lowed to con­tinue, the county ex­ec­u­tive, for all of his charisma, can for­get about at­tract­ing up­scale re­tail es­tab­lish­ments and white-linen restau­rants.

What is needed is moral lead­er­ship. Our elected of­fi­cials, our clergy and our ju­di­ciary need to step up. And our res­i­dents need to de­mand more of them. Other ju­ris­dic­tions do not coun­te­nance such vi­o­lent law­less­ness. Why do we? When is enough enough?

Up­per Marl­boro The writer is a para­medic su­per­vi­sor in the Prince Ge­orge’s County Fire/EMS De­part­ment and an Up­per Marl­boro town com­mis­sioner. His e-mail ad­dress is josakeif@mac.com.

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