Officials in Prince George’s County, Maryland, unveiled plans Thursday to fight crime this summer, focusing on boosting police presence in specific, high-crime areas and community programming to keep kids off the streets.
Strictly enforcing a youth curfew — as the county did late last summer after a spike in carjackings and killings — is not part of the first phase of the plan, Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said during a news conference.
This year’s plan includes focusing on “hot zones” — small areas about 1,000 meters in diameter.
Officers will be assigned to these specific areas, only to leave for high priority calls, and will be “proactively checking businesses, gathering intelligence and enforcing the quality of life issues,” Aziz said.
According to the police chief, the purpose of boosting officers in the grids is to develop a “more focused deployment to get ahead” of crime as the summer progresses, describing last August as “an unprecedented month of murder.”
August of 2022 was the county’s deadliest month in decades, with 24 killings compared to a monthly average of eight.
“What has been shown is that those smaller areas that we drill down into … will enable us to actually have a crime reduction,” Aziz said.
The chief said last year’s youth curfew, which was enforced through the end of 2022, “yielded the intended results,” but that the department will not be enforcing it again at this stage.
“We intend to keep it as a tool as we assess, evaluate and re-evaluate this initiative,” Aziz said, adding the initiative will be evaluated “on a daily basis.”
In addition to hot-zone monitoring, authorities said community partnerships will be key in combating youth crime.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has “invested in summer jobs, as well as other activities for thousands of youth in our county,” according to Deputy Chief Administrator for Public Safety and Homeland Security Barry Stanton.
When asked whether police plan to hold parents legally accountable for their children’s crimes, as is permitted under Maryland law, Stanton said while no current efforts are in place to do so, he personally believes the department should “take a look at that approach.”
Stanton stressed to parents “there is no reason for a child to be out at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Aziz described policing as a “50-50 partnership with the community,” saying the department is balancing community engagement efforts such as ride-along programs with more punitive approaches such as incarceration.
Aziz suggested longer-term measures would also be coming later.
“Our real goal is to have a real, comprehensive public safety plan,” Aziz said. “We realized that the police are only one cog in this solution.”