“License and registration please.”
This is what many Prince George’s County residents hear as they are randomly pulled over by four or more officers, who are a part of the noticeably large number of county cops that have been posted in areas where shootings have occurred this year.
Police presence has drastically increased in Maryland cities like Temple Hills, District Heights, Suitland and New Carrollton, but do the residents really feel safe?
Lewis Douglas, a 22-year-old tow truck business owner, says “No.”
“I run a cash and carry business, so the chance of someone attempting to rob me or one of my employees is high,” Lewis said. “It’s unfortunate, but it is very necessary to protect myself because I know I can’t call the cops until after I get robbed or shot.”
To date, there have been 16 murders in the Prince George’s County area since Jan. 1 and residents have questions.
Carol Smith, 60, a retired government employee, asks, “What is the police force doing besides sitting on every corner for a few days after someone has been killed, and why don’t we see that much of them on a regular basis?”
Prince George’s Police Cpl. Larry Johnson said the police force is spread thin responding to the number of calls it receives.
“So we utilize the quiet nights to patrol areas where violent crimes have occurred,” Johnson said.
Smith says she is unsure of whether she feels safe in the area. “I don’t even know if there is really such a thing these days.”
On Jan. 29, the 16th homicide victim was killed in the parking lot of Club 23 in Temple Hills, Md., apparently following an altercation.
Since the shooting, officers have posted large digital signs on Saint Barnabas Road near the club, asking anyone with information to call the number that is listed. People who knew the victim also put together a small memorial with Teddy bears, flowers and artificial candles near the crime scene, an all-too-familiar sight in the county.
Shirley Thomas, 44, an early education teacher, does not think that the county is as safe as it should be.
“People are just killing each other, and my fear just comes from knowing that these people have no regard for human life,” she said. “But, I think that the police are trying their best to do their job with what they have.”
Thomas says she hears the same thing when she turns on the news: “usually that someone was shot and killed.”
“In order for us to feel safe, the police or whoever is in charge has to try a different method because what they are doing now doesn’t seem to be working very much.”
The Prince George’s County area has been plagued by homicides, so much so that the FBI was called in at one point to assist with the investigations.
“We are trying to make it so that officers are always present and always seen around the county,” Johnson said. “That’s the goal right now.”
Douglas says officers waste too much time riding around, giving out tickets for tinted window and cars being parked the wrong way. “I will try and legally protect myself and hopefully show some of these guys how important it is to live in a safe neighborhood,” he said.