CAMP SPRINGS – The Camp Springs Civic Association (CSCA) focused on the positives in a community that often makes the news for crime.
The association held its first meeting of the fiscal year at Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Sept. 14 and invited members of the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), as well as County Executive Rushern Baker III, to speak on initiatives combating crime and raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, respectively.
Officers from District IV and District V updated the community about crime rates, particularly robberies. For District IV, commercial robberies decreased by 11.5 percent and residential robberies by 37.5 percent, which drew loud applause. Violent crime in the district was down 20.5 percent and total crime 27.1 percent, according to police.
Police said community engagement with officers is important to seeing those trends continue.
“The numbers are trending in the right direction, and we’re very happy about that. (But) we can’t be successful without you guys’ help,” said Acting Maj. Cedric Dickerson, commander at District V.
CSCA partnered with PGPD to hold a National Night Out event last month, which officers said was a great success. According to CSCA President Tammy Jones, other accomplishments last fiscal year included erecting a new Camp Springs sign, getting a turn signal installed at the intersection of Allentown Road and Old Branch Avenue, and holding a community shred day.
Residents praised the police and some offered stories of a job well done. For example, officers helped get “No Parking” signs posted along Brinkley Road, a resident said, getting rid of a problem with excessive parking there.
Gloria Lawlah, a former state senator and former acting Maryland Secretary of Aging, said officers in her Hillcrest Heights neighborhood are equally responsive.
“These boys in blue have kept me in that neighborhood for years, and I love them. I really do,” she said.
Lawlah also introduced Baker and the Dementia Friendly America initiative he is bringing to Prince George’s County. The county is one of six communities nationwide chosen to participate in the initiative, announced by the White House Conference on Aging in 2015. It is designed to raise awareness about dementia, Alzheimer’s and similar diseases.
Baker said he wanted to be involved in Dementia Friendly America because of his experiences caring for his wife, Christa Beverly, who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in 2010.
“I wanted to get involved in this because those who were caregivers, especially in the early stages of dementia, you run into things that in your normal walk of life you wouldn’t think are strange or cause you problems,” he said.
The initiative will be run by the Department of Family Services, which is headquartered in Camp Springs. It will focus on education, for both the community and any caregivers who might need to know what resources are available.
Baker said it is also important to raise money for new treatments and research, as well as participate in trials that help researchers learn more about the disease.
“The other thing is, African-Americans don’t participate in trials. We don’t. But the fastest-growing segment of early onset is African-American females and Latino males,” Baker said. “Those trials are important.”
Members of the Camp Springs community are involved too, hosting several support groups and a caregivers’ conference. At the meeting, residents asked PGPD if they would be doing additional training of their officers to help them more effectively interact with dementia patients.
District V Commander Maj. Philip Davis said officers undergo training every year, including mental illness training.
“We are doing training every year. Specifically to dementia, not yet, but I do see it coming on board. But, the officer should be using common sense when they’re on the scene to realize what they may be dealing with,” he said. “They should be evaluating all possibilities when they’re dealing with an on-duty situation.”
Baker will be participating in the Prince George’s County Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 24, at Prince George’s Stadium. For more details, or to register or donate, visit http://bit.ly/2cAd1hw.