Friday, March 07, 2014 9:37 PM
Published on: Wednesday, September 04, 2013
By Tauren Dyson
“It’s time to get back to work, we’ve had enough vacation,” said Angela Holmes, founder of the Prince George’s District IV Community Coffee Roundtable, a biweekly meeting among community members that had been on hiatus for a few months. Those were her words as she held her latest meeting at the Clarion Hotel in Oxon Hill last Wednesday.
Because South County residents have been so vigilant about looking out for crime in their community, Holmes, Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw and Assistant Chief Craig Howard said citizen involvement has led to a major drop in overall crime in the county.
“Neighborhood watch is working fabulously,” Holmes said.
Magaw recalled a meeting with County Executive Rushern Baker in 2011.
“Violent crime went down 20 percent in 2011, that was twice the national average,” Magaw said. “Last year was just under 8 percent. … Right now where we sit is just under 16 percent from last year.”
Magaw said police were able to achieve those statistics with fewer than 1,700 officers. He added that overall crime was down by 12 percent from last year.
“We can say these numbers … but we’re talking about people being victimized,” Magaw said. “It’s a tremendous compliment to the county as a whole.”
Prince George’s County police officers cover Accokeek, Camp Springs and Fort Washington in District IV. In those areas, theft from automobiles ranked high on the list of crimes residents commonly reported. Many of those crimes can be prevented by not leaving valuable items on car seats, where they can be visible to potential thieves, law enforcement officials said.
Holmes said her vigilance against crime was enhanced after she completed the Citizens Police Academy. The 11-week program is an extensive hands-on process that allows Prince George’s County residents to experience life as a county police officer. Participants take part in lessons on “community policing, accident investigation, crime prevention” and other police involved activities.
After finishing the program, Holmes said it made her more knowledgeable about community awareness.
“Because of my attendance at the academy, I pay a lot more attention to the things I see that the average person wouldn’t,” Holmes said.
She went on to say that not enough District IV residents attended the last academy and implored the attendees of the roundtable to participate in the event. But the strides to curb crime in Prince George’s still impressed some county officials on hand.
“I think this is very good news in Prince George’s County … but more importantly, citizens are working hand and hand with the police,” said Derrick Coley, public affairs liaison for County Councilman Obie Patterson. “They immediately call local cops to eradicate crime and other nuisance issues.”
Coley also noted how important the recent passage of a bill that requires late night gas stations and convenience stores to either install high definition security cameras or to upgrade existing cameras to meet certain specifications.
“You can’t have a business open and not have adequate measures in place to protect your business, knowing the current economic climate we’re in,” Coley said.