Violent crime is on the rise in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
A standing room only community forum at the Creative Suitland Arts Center on Thursday saw people coming together to discuss plans to turn the trend around.
It was at times emotional.
“Make it make sense!” a woman cried out repeatedly from the back of the room, referring to the death of her son, who was killed in a violent crime.
While murders in Prince George’s County are up over a couple years ago, they are trending down this year.
“There were 60 homicides here in 2018. Last year 135 homicides plagued our city county,” said Police Chief Malik Aziz said. “But the good news for 2022, so far this year, we’ve had 28 homicides. By this time last year, we had 41.”
There is a spike in other violent crimes as well.
“We’ve seen an increase in carjackings since the pandemic began in 2020,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said. “And in 2021, carjackings continued to rise.”
One thing that may be making matters worse is the backlog in the court system. Due to court shutdowns during the pandemic, many criminal cases from over a year ago still have not been to trial. That can mean some criminals are still on the streets, awaiting their court date, and free to commit more crimes.
There is a big concern related to those responsible for committing the crimes too.
“Juveniles went up every year,” Aziz said. “It was only 21 juveniles in 2019. In 2021 we had 86 juveniles arrested for carjacking, 86! Our youngest was 12 years old.”
It’s a distressing trend.
“We’re locking up our future,” said State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.
But she’s not just referring to those under 18, she said there’s another age group at high risk.
“People who are in that 18- to 26-year-old age range, what I call ’emerging adults.’ They are developmentally considered adolescents. Legally they are adults, but developmentally they are adolescents,” she said.
Braveboy said parents need to keep the conversations going with their kids, not just until they reach legal adulthood, but until they reach that developmental adulthood in their mid-20s.
“They still need guidance, they still need support, they still need love, they need someone to care for them, to hug them to tell them that they love them to tell them that they can be anything that they want to be because just because they made a mistake, that does not mean that’s the end of their life,” she said.
Among the solutions presented at the forum were more investments in youth and crime intervention programs, mental health services and recruiting more police.
Officials also called on the community to do what they can to help guide the future generations to positive paths, instead of criminal ones.