UPPER MARLBORO – Overall crime in Prince George’s County has fallen since 2012 despite homicides breaking a barrier they have not crossed since that same year.
There have been 61 homicides in the county this year as of Nov. 2, despite there being 3,531 fewer crimes in the county since last year. In 2012 there were 64 homicides after there being 95 in 2011. But the county is on pace to once again eclipse the 64 mark.
Despite not being near the 90 mark, Councilman Obie Patterson said he is still concerned the county is heading in the wrong direction.
“My concern is that I think we’re headed in the wrong direction,” Patterson said. “I would say just to be comfortable with what we had last year, that’s not where we want to be. We’d like to be in a situation where, hopefully, we can get to the point where we don’t have any.”
Ultimately, Police Chief Mark Magaw said, the goal is to have no homicides in the county. But that is difficult to accomplish.
Magaw said he would not categorize the increase in homicides throughout the county as a spike in the number. Rather, he said, it is just an “uptick.”
“We want to put things in perspective. One of the things I wanted to talk about was the word spike. This is not a spike,” Magaw said. “It’s an uptick – no question. But when we look at the numbers, where we are, I think that’s more reflective of what it is.”
Patterson disagreed and said whatever you want to call the number, it is an increase in homicides and a loss of lives around the county.
“I think when you’re most affected, you look at spike. When you’re not really directly in that environment you may have another meaning for it,” Patterson said.
This is a national trend, Magaw said, and there are many jurisdictions with much higher numbers than they have. Even regionally, violent crime assaults, shootings and robberies are all up.
The homicide spike is not only happening in Prince George’s County, Magaw said, but is more of a national trend. Homicide numbers are up across the country, he said, as well as across the region where violent crime assaults, shootings and robberies have also increased in frequency.
The driver, he said, is the drug trade going on. The police department is moving more resources to areas where they are seeing drug trading increasing in hopes to combat the increase of homicides.
Deputy Police Chief Hank Stawinksi said that is one of the more important aspects of stopping the homicides. Having resources in the right place is a good place to start, he said.
“The reality is they understand what is driving the phenomenon and they understand what changes are driving this,” Stawinski said. “When the environment changes, we change.”
A majority of the homicides in the county have occurred from gunshot wounds, according to data gathered by the police department. The homicides involving gun shots has increased to 42 from 33 the year before.
There has been an increase in blunt force homicides throughout the county, the data said as well, increasing from two last year to five this year. Stabbings are down from 14 to 13 this year. The amount of drug related homicides has increased from one last year to eight this year.
Even with homicides increase, County Councilwoman Andrea Harrison said homicides are still down overall. The residents of the county need to hear that part of the story, she said.
“Total crime in Prince George’s County is amongst the lowest in the National-Capitol region,” Harrison said. “We’re going to say that over and over again. That’s part of telling our story.”
Overall crime is down in Prince George’s County by 17 percent, Magaw said, and it has been down for five years.
County Councilwoman Mary Lehman said that crime is down in the region, but people must realize that statistics are not just numbers to be discussed – they involve people’s lives. Whether it is a spike or an uptick, she said, lives are still lost.
“I understand you want to make the point that we need to look at the big picture, but the fact is if you are a victim of violence it does not matter how much the county rate has gone down. I think that’s worth reminding ourselves over and over again,” Lehman said.