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LANDOVER – Prince George’s County continues to experience drops in crime but can use its resources better to serve the community better, Police Chief Henry Stawinski III told members of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce during its quarterly Public Safety Committee meeting on Aug. 29.
Stawinski reported 237 fewer violent crimes this year than last year as of Aug. 29. Overall crime is down 10.6 percent with 1,254 fewer reports than in 2017. Lastly, Prince George’s County Police say that traffic deaths are down by 8.8 percent.
The drop is contributed to the shift in how to combat specific types of crimes through different strategies and the investment in public safety, Stawinski, who is also the Public Safety Committee Chair, stated.
“We stopped trying to solve crime, and we started trying to prevent crime,” Stawinski said. “Because you do not want us to solve the crime that occurred to you and catch the person; you do not want the crime to happen in the first place.”
However, improvements, like using of the emergency helicopter in Upper Marlboro and deploying the K9 unit, is needed, Stawinski said. The growing amount of attractions, like the MGM National Harbor and FedExField, require more daily interactions with the venues and using all resources possible to ensure the best security for guests.
While the county police department is fielding success stories with their dropping crime rate, local police departments are still fighting growing concerns, Chamber member and attorney Jason Deloach said. He questioned the improved numbers in the crime data provided by PGPD as it does not include the numbers from local departments.
“It does not show up in the newspaper that there is a murder in the municipality, it is a murder in Prince George’s County,” Deloach said. “I represent a few of those municipalities and they are struggling with crime.”
Stawinski said the local police departments are responsible to make any crime “disclosure to the community,” but PGPD does keep track of crimes happening in neighborhoods, whether they respond to it or not.
To confirm Deloach’s statement, our staff submitted Maryland Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) requests to acquire the raw data from every municipal station in the county. However, only 13 of the 22 departments provided us with all of the reports in the required 30-day period to respond.
Only nine of the municipal stations provided all of the data from 2010-2017 and PGPD said that they only have crime reports stored digitally since 2007.
When asked about how Stawiniski procured the stats for a 50 percent drop in violent crime during the seven-year span, he said that the makeup of those figures specifically came from the UCR data.
“(We received the data from) Our daily crime stats. We track our crime day-in and day-out, and we’ve been doing it for years,” Stawinski said. “We report our UCR numbers at the end of the year.”
However, after receiving the official crime statistics data from PGPD for the crime drop claim, it denotes explicitly that “all of these statistics are “raw” data and have not been compiled or checked using Uniform Crime Reporting guidelines.”
The police chief added that the county police offer assistance to local police stations and there are plans to have municipalities join into their communication system in the future.
“In my view, we all need to grow faster and there is a disconnect where if I am not primarily responsible for crime prevention at a place, but a homicide happens, that suffers both institutions,” Stawinski said.
The county has spent money to equip their force better, starting with the construction of the County Police Department’s forensic division laboratories in 2010.
Since the start of Rushern L. Baker III administration, communication with the county government has improved to help increase the number of resources with the department.
Prince George’s County has changed immensely since its higher violent days of the 1980s, where 30,000 crime reports were considered “a good year,” Stawinski said. Last year, 17,934 total crimes were reported to the county police department (PGPD) and only 2,700 were violent.
The addition of Training and Education Division facility on Presidential Parkway in 2016 was an “essential $22 million addition,” Stawinski said. Police officers use it for training purposes while local city departments not affiliated with PGPD can still send their officers to refresh their skills.
“In a course of a decade, it would cost (PGPD) as much on lease dollars as much as buying Presidential Parkway,” Stawinski said.
“So yes, it was a $22 million investment, but we would have spent that moment on leases instead of public safety. That’s why it made more financial sense to spend that money so in the future we could re-invest it on more officers, better equipment, and other construction needs.”
Two weeks ago, PGPD added a new wing to their forensic division facility which included space for its video analysis team, classrooms for lectures and increased evidence storage to avoid cross-contamination issues.
After the hour-long meeting with Stawinski, members of the Chamber of Commerce were given a tour of the full facility with William Greene, director of technical operations for the Crime Scene Investigation Division.
PGPD’s timeline and tour of the new wing of the forensic division was an eye-opener for Deloach. The former media chair for the chamber said the session was “informative” and he was impressed with the expansion, including the size of the car compound for evidence.
“I can appreciate the methods that it takes to conduct a crime scene investigation,” Deloach said. “Makes me feel more secure that they realized the importance of making that move to protect evidence.”
Stawinski mentioned that outreach to younger future cadets will be a priority moving forward, with press information officer Jennifer Donelan tasked with communicating with the Latino community. 18.5 percent of the county’s population is Latino according to recent Census data so the ability to connect to the Spanish-community, whether verbally or through the media, will be key in battling crime, Stawinski said.