Amid a rise in crime and gun violence, residents of Prince George’s County in Maryland were able to voice their concerns about the community at a forum on Saturday.
Prince George’s County Council Vice Chair Wala Blegay told WTOP that the public safety forum presented an opportunity for dialogue between constituents and stakeholders, and that its purpose was to hear more about the community’s concerns and to talk about what can be done to mitigate the issues.
“It is important that we create a safe space for residents to express their public safety needs and concerns. The root causes of crime in our communities must be addressed, and we want the community to be a part of the conversation as we work towards effective solutions,” said Blegay in a statement. “Enhancing the quality of life for the residents of Prince George’s County is a Council priority – it is of major importance to me and my colleagues.”
“There’s been too many killings, carjackings, all of these things, and people don’t know what’s going on,” Blegay said. “A lot of people reached out and said ‘why aren’t you all doing anything about this crime? The crime is increasing.'”
Christopher Hammond was one of the people who voiced his concerns about the amount of crime happening in the community. He said he was concerned about the amount of drug activity happening at the BP gas station on Pennsylvania Avenue near Walters Lane.
“We just want to be as engaged as much as possible as a voting block for our community … We can all unify behind the concerns of the things that happened, not only in the larger community specifically right there in that hub of what has grown into be a crime area,” Hammond said.
The gas station was shut down, which caused a drop in loitering and criminal activity, and officers have been deployed there 24 hours a day. Hammond asked stakeholders if there was a more permanent plan in place to prevent crime there.
“We want to know how the law enforcement will engage to make long-term solutions,” he said. One stakeholder said that one solution is to create more opportunities for young people who have been arrested.
Blegay said it’s because of concerns like Hammond’s that she held the forum. She said she wanted constituents to be able to talk about crime directly with her, members of law enforcement and other community leaders who were present at the forum.
One of the concerns she says the council will focus on is trying to fix staffing issues with departments, like the police, to reduce crime.
“People say ‘we want to make sure that we have more police on the street.’ Well, you don’t have enough police on the street because they’re saying they don’t have enough staffing,” Blagey said.
She said she wants people to know they’re working to address the crime issues by getting more funding to address law enforcement staffing problems.
Blegay said she will be holding more community discussions in the future.