Car­jack­ings Have Dropped 29 Per­cent Since 2006

The Washington Post - - Virginia | Maryland - By Avis Thomas-Lester

Car­jack­ings dropped nearly 30 per­cent, and auto thefts also fell sharply last year in Prince Ge­orge’s County, lead­ing an over­all de­crease in vi­o­lent and prop­erty crimes, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary sta­tis­tics re­leased yes­ter­day.

The county, which once held the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the site of more car­jack­ings than all other Mary­land ju­ris­dic­tions com­bined, re­ported 338 car­jack­ings last year, down from 476 in 2006.

There were 10,383 auto thefts re­ported last year, a drop of 8.7 per­cent from the 11,377 re­ported in 2006, the sta­tis­tics show. Rob­beries fell 7 per­cent, from 2,588 in 2006 to 2,406 last year. The num­ber of rapes re­mained about the same, and the num­ber of homi­cides in­creased slightly.

At a news con­fer­ence, Po­lice Chief Melvin C. High cred­ited “the hard work of our pa­trol peo­ple . . . and in­ves­ti­ga­tors” for the de­creases and said the de­part­ment is try­ing to re­duce the num­bers fur­ther.

“Al­though crime num­bers are down, the de­part­ment is not sat­is­fied, be­cause one homi­cide, one rape or one car­jack­ing is one too many,” High said. “But the dou­bledigit re­duc­tions since 2005 demon­strate that we have stayed true to the strate­gies we’ve out­lined and that the men and women of the de­part­ment have worked hard to turn things around.”

The crime num­bers are good news for Prince Ge­orge’s, which has strug­gled for years to rec­on­cile its images as the na­tion’s wealth­i­est ma­jor­ity-black ju­ris­dic­tion and as one of the high­est crime ar­eas in the state.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, chaf­ing un­der crit­i­cism by res­i­dents and com­mu­nity lead­ers frus­trated by ris­ing crime, an­nounced a se­ries of ini­tia­tives to tar­get of­fenses in­clud­ing homi­cides and car­jack­ings. Of­fi­cers blan­keted high crime ar­eas dur­ing hours when vi­o­lent of­fenses peaked and took such mea­sures as tick­et­ing mo­torists who left their unat­tended cars run­ning, of­fi­cials said.

Pub­lic Safety Di­rec­tor Ver­non R. Her­ron said the re­duc­tions in sev­eral cat­e­gories of vi­o­lent and prop­erty crimes prove that the po­lice ef­forts are work­ing. Au­thor- ities closed sev­eral night­clubs that were mag­nets for crime, he said, and pres­sured own­ers and man­age­ment com­pa­nies of apart­ment com­plexes where dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­bers of crimes were re­ported to main­tain “safe en­vi­ron­ments.”

“We are safer to­day than we were yes­ter­day, and we hope to be safer to­mor­row,” Her­ron said af­ter the news con­fer­ence. “We are not cel­e­brat­ing a de­crease in crime. We are cel­e­brat­ing go­ing in the right di­rec­tion to elim­i­nate crime.”

High said the ad­di­tion of po­lice of­fi­cers — the de­part­ment has about 1,500 on the street — has also helped re­duce crime. One hun­dred of­fi­cers are sched­uled to grad­u­ate from the po­lice academy by sum­mer’s end.

He said homi­cides spiked in March and cred­ited strate­gies em­ployed by in­ves­ti­ga­tors and pa­trol of­fi­cers for hold­ing the num­bers down. There were 141 homi­cides re­ported last year, up slightly from the 134 the pre­vi­ous year but well be­low the record 169 in 2005.

County Ex­ec­u­tive Jack B. John­son (D), a for­mer Prince Ge­orge’s state’s at­tor­ney, cred­ited co­op­er­a­tion be­tween res­i­dents and po­lice, im­proved morale among of­fi­cers and in­creased fund­ing of law en­force­ment by his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“For this de­part­ment to be suc­cess­ful, we knew that we had to fo­cus on giv­ing the po­lice de­part­ment the re­sources it needed to keep mov­ing for­ward,” John­son said. Staff re­searcher Meg Smith con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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