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Md Co. Police Step Up Patrols After 9 Killings

PALMER PARK, Md. (AP) -- Prince George's County police have stepped up patrols of the county's most dangerous streets after a string of murders that left nine people dead in six days.

Undercover officers will be placed in high crime areas and overtime hours will be assigned to try to stem the recent spate of killings, according to Deputy Chief Jeffrey Cox.

More officers will be on the street working on routine tasks such as traffic and criminal enforcement, he said. That way, more officers will be in place to respond right away to incidents.

"We're going to try to increase our proactive policing," Cox, head of the department's patrol division, told The Washington Post Wednesday.

Additional officers will be posted in areas with heavy drug trade, Cox said, noting that some of the recent murders appear to be drug-related. Officers also will be assigned to areas outside nightclubs that have been scenes of recent violence.

In the most recent murders, a man and woman were killed at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night while sitting on the front steps of a Seat Pleasant apartment building. No arrests had been made in the case as of Wednesday.

The other seven murders took place in areas such as College Park and Glenarden. Late Monday a man was fatally shot in Forestville.

Police union president Percy Alston said the overtime assignments were welcome but that a major problem is a shortage in the rank-and-file. About 450 officers, or 39 percent of the force, already respond to about 2,000 service calls every day, Alston said.

"When you're only responding to calls for service and only doing reactive law enforcement, then your ability to prevent crimes is severely hampered," Alston said.

However, Cox said he was optimistic that the cases will be closed and that the homicide rate will soon fall. Investigators are already working hard to close the cases and prevent future homicides, he said.

"We don't want to give the impression that crime is out of control in Prince George's and that police aren't making headway," he said.

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