Carjackings Have Dropped 29 Percent Since 2006
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.