Prince George’s County has seen a dramatic rise in the homicide rate in 2021, with more than 100 killings reported so far this year in the Maryland county.
But the county’s top prosecutor, State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, said she’ll continue to support efforts to address the underlying cause of crime, as well as carrying out criminal prosecutions.
“We can’t only focus on prosecution without addressing the underlying needs,” Braveboy said of young offenders, adding that those between the ages of 18 and 26 account for the majority of violent crime numbers.
When asked what she thought drove the crime surge, Braveboy told WTOP that the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation it generated were part of the problem.
“We cannot pretend that is not a huge factor in all of this. We just saw a lot of desperation and hopelessness. We believe that has driven crime up not only here in Prince Georges’ County,” she said, acknowledging that the problem was nationwide.
Jason Abbott, the Principal Deputy State’s Attorney in Braveboy’s office, agreed with Braveboy, telling WTOP that young people didn’t have the kind of activities that create social bonds.
Those included school and after-school activities that Abbot said had an impact on the jump in crime. Deputy State’s Attorney Perry Paylor agreed.
“We can’t underestimate the behavioral health implications of [the pandemic],” Paylor said.
Braveboy added that accountability is still important. She supports a system in which offenders are prosecuted and serve their time, but when they are released, she’d like to see the system “provide them with services they need in order to lead more productive lives.”
“These are services that people need in our community, just like we need educational services,” she said.
She has asked the state to fund 12 new assistant state’s attorney’s positions and seven slots for support staff. Part of the need for more staff stemmed from Prince George’s County police officers now outfitted with body cameras.
“We have to process all of that evidence,” Braveboy said. “We have to review it; we have to redact it; we have to provide it to defense counsel to meet our obligations.”
Braveboy said her legislative priorities for the General Assembly session beginning in January will include an effort to crack down on so-called “ghost guns,” firearms that don’t have serial numbers, and, as a result, cannot be traced.