LARGO, Md. (WJLA) - For the third straight year, Prince George's County is reporting dramatic drops in violent crime, and law enforcement officials are crediting better community policing as a main reason for the decrease.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, County Executive Rushern Baker and numerous other public officials lauded the significant drops Thursday, ones that saw homicide in the county drop by 38 percent in 2013.
Prince George's County recorded 56 murders last year, which is a far cry from when the county spiked at more than 160 in 2005. It's the county's lowest homicide rate since 1985.
"It is about steady, consistent pursuit of reducing crime at every level," Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magay said.
Violent crime overall decreased by 30 percent as well. Baker credits a renewed commitment to community building as a major reason that crime has dropped so sharply.
"For the last 18 months, we have had a laser-like focus on these communities," Baker said. "It has gone beyond just excellent policing. We have leveraged every resource of our government and we have taken a holistic approach to these communities."
2014 is off to an inauspicious start, though, as two people have been murdered in the county in the first two days of the new year. However, the progress is promising to many in the community, including activist Belinda Queen-Howard.
Queen-Howard says that the stats are more than just numbers in her Capitol Heights neighborhood, where police tape and crime scenes used to be a daily fact of life. While crime hasn't been eradicated, she says she feels safer.
"My cars have been stolen and my house has been broken into," she said. "(But) citizens are taking back their community and I love it."
As an example of one way the county is using new tactics to battle crime, officials said that violent repeat offenders are now being summoned to police headquarters to let them know that social services are available to keep them on the straight and narrow.
They're also reminded that if they act out again, they'll be caught and face a State's Attorney's office that boasts a 93 percent homicide conviction rate.
"We're holding our criminals responsible so they're not out there to terrorize our citizens anymore," Wes Adams, the county's chief homicide prosecutor, said.