County Executive, thank you so very much, and members of the Council, Ingrid Turner and to all of you – it’s a great honor to be here with you here.
And County Executive, thank you for your leadership and for your focus. From day one, you’ve understood, and you’ve made Prince George’s County a safer place for people to work and live and do business, and that Prince George’s County’s full potential will come to be realized. There’s nothing more important that any of us do in the short trust that we have to administer the people’s covenant than to make our government more effective when it comes to reducing violent crime – to improving public safety.
And that’s what the meeting we just witnessed is all about, here in Prince George’s County, with the great County Executive in Rushern Baker. With Police Chief Mark Magaw, and also Sheriff High. I’m also joined by Col. Marcus Brown, our Superintendent of State Police. Secretary Gary Maynard, who runs our Department of Public Safety, which also includes, in our State, Parole and Probation. Secretary Sam Abed, who is our Secretary of Juvenile Services. Kristen Mahoney, executive director of our Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention.
By all of those titles and introductions, I think you’ll see the commitment we have to coordination, to cooperation, to better communication – all to the end of reducing violent crime and improving public safety in our neighborhoods.
I just have a couple of bullet points I’m going to share with you. There are many reasons, and lots of evidence of the progress that is being made here in public safety in Prince George’s County, and all of that progress should give us reason to work even harder in the months ahead and the days ahead to realize that every single day is an opportunity to save lives and increase public safety. There are very few things that any of us do that I think are quite as gratifying or rewarding as to know that our efforts led to the protection of even a single life. That if we can spare even one mom having to be at the graveside of a son, than we have done important work.
And we’re here to announce the results of a couple of collaborations that are critically important because we’ve seen work in other jurisdictions, and they had to do with targeting those repeat violent offenders who are out there violating very often the terms of their parole and probation. Often times, they’ve already been charged with very serious crimes and yet the warrant has gone unserved as they try to elude law enforcement, hopscotching from one side of the border to another.
And so the two very important things we have in motion, that we’re doing together – the County and the State – one has to do with the parallel movement that the State’s Attorney will also talk about. The unit of the State’s Attorney’s office that will target repeat violent offenders as soon as they violate the terms of their parole and probation, get them into court right away, serve those warrants and make sure that their probations are rescinded and that they go to jail.
The other thing we’re here to announce is over the course of three and a half weeks we have been running a joint warrant initiative – State Police, County Police, often times municipal police departments all working together with Parole and Probation. And so from August 2nd to August 27th – 719 offenders were arrested or kept behind bars, charged with crimes including attempted murder, rape, sexual assault, child abuse and drug distribution. And these actions have closed 818 warrants. That’s a lot of work, in the middle of the night, by a lot of dedicated law enforcement people going out and knocking on the right doors in order to protect the public from repeat violent offenders and it makes a big difference.
The initiative was funded by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention – but ultimately, it was really funded by all of us who are Americans because it came from our federal government. Those crime grants that were restored by President Obama and his administration, that are now – many are threatened with reduction – but $250,000 from the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, secured by the hard work of our Congressional delegation. Senator Mikulski, Senator Cardin, Donna Edwards, Steny Hoyer – they fought for those because they saw that it would help you do your job. They saw that these grants would help make law enforcement work more effectively for the people we protect.
So I want to congratulate the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office who took the lead on this, and also the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, the Maryland State Police, the Prince George’s County Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service. And we’re going to continue to work on better collaboration and coordination in these efforts. It really is the key.
None of this happens by chance; it happens because we’ve chosen to enter into the partnerships that work. We’ve chosen to do the effective things that reduce violent crime. And the Prince George’s County violent crime and property crime rates have been driven down to their lowest ever reported since we’ve had standard reporting since 1975 – and that’s a tremendous tribute to the courageous men and women of this department as well as the courageous neighbors who are working with their police.
I want to just sketch out five initiatives that are all a part of this effective fight against crime.
One is the Violence Prevention Initiative, where we’re doing a much better job than we ever have of identifying the most violent people who are currently out on the streets, under parole or probation order, and we focus our supervision on them. And if they violate, we make sure they’re brought to court and back in front of a sentencing judge right away so that they can serve the balance of their term or as much as we can possibly get.
Second, we inherited a huge backlog of unanalyzed DNA evidence and, after clearing the backlog of 24,000 unanalyzed samples, we’ve now been able to use DNA evidence to arrest 400 murderers, rapists, burglars, and other criminals who otherwise would still be walking the streets.
Third, modern technology is allowing us to combine law enforcement databases in ways that we never have before. It used to be that you needed your own pass code to access – or you needed to know somebody at that department or somebody at this department, or somebody that controls the secret pass code in order to allow a detective bureau anywhere in our State to solve a violent crime against one of our citizens. Well, those days are behind us now. We’ve created a Public Safety Dashboard, it receives about 50,000 hits a day, as it searches through what were about 92 disparate data sources that are all combined in a simple sort of search engine for law enforcement, if you will, that’s helped them to solve crimes and improve clearance rates across our state.
Fourth, we’ve been able to forward advanced technology tag readers – the license plate readers. A few years ago, we only had a few of those. But because of the federal grants, because of these investments, and because of the new work of law enforcement, we now have license plate readers deployed at local departments all across our State, and as a result, you see – I think Prince George’s County has to be the leader in our State in terms of rate of reduction in auto thefts. Five years ago, that’s all I ever heard about at our community meetings. Amen?
Council members, elected officials, back me up – all we ever heard about at community meetings five or six years ago were, ‘Auto theft. Auto theft. Auto theft.’ But now in Prince George’s County we’ve been able to virtually cut that in half over the last few years – and more than half.
Fifth, the Capitol Area Regional Fugitive Task Force. We have posted over 2,400 warrants to help make our neighborhoods safer in the whole DC metropolitan area. We need to look at this DC metro area as if that border didn’t exist, because that’s how the criminals look at it. And so with better cooperation on both sides of the border, with the Regional Fugitive Task Force, we go after the most predatory repeat violent offenders, regardless of what side of the border they’re on, serve those warrants, get them into court and get them behind bars before they can murder another one of our citizens whether in Prince George’s, Montgomery or DC.
And one final note: through our Regional Gun Task Force, we’ve been able to seize 855 guns here in Prince George’s County just since 2008. That has produced 238 arrests for illegal gun-trafficking, and kept weapons out of the hands of many who would have otherwise used them against citizens in our State.
So we’re doing good things together, but this is not the time to set off the confetti cannons, as I heard the Prince George’s County Police saying during the performance measurement session we just went through is that ‘One homicide is one too many.’ And we have a lot of lives that we can save. And there’s reason to be hopeful and optimistic that further strengthening and coordination and cooperation and communication between all law enforcement in our State, with the leadership here in Prince George’s County – we can save a lot of lives in the years ahead.
I have carried with me a passion for supporting our courageous men and women in law enforcement since my days as Mayor of Baltimore, where I saw what improved public safety can do for the future of a city, and for a whole metropolitan area. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Prince George’s County can be the leader in the years ahead in violent crime reduction – not just in the State of Maryland, but in the United States. And that would be a tremendous contribution to the future we hope to give to our children. So thank you all very much.