Where Is the Outrage?
Prince Georgians Must Demand Better
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.