The murders in Prince George’s County highlight another striking issue within the county – the divide between inner and outer beltway communities.

All 15 murders so far this year were inside the beltway, proving that while wealth and pride reign in communities like Bowie, Upper Marlboro and Mitchellville, there are still communities where residents don’t enjoy that level of comfort.

“Being realistic, you have more activities in areas that border Washington, D.C.,” said Earle Gumbs, Hillcrest/Marlow Heights Civic Association president. “We do border Washington, D.C. just like Seat Pleasant and some of those other places so you have more people committing crimes and some of those other things.”

While Gumbs didn’t attribute the statistics to a disparity in resources between inner and outer beltway communities, he did say there was a different mindset when it comes to people taking ownership of their own neighborhoods.

“I know for a fact that you always put police where you get the most calls for service,” he said. “Sometimes people in the inner beltway areas may see something going on, but they won’t call. Those in Bowie, Laurel or some of these other places, as soon as a drop of a hat happens, they call.”

The divide is not just seen in the violence in the communities, it’s seen in the shopping options and schools as well.

Woodmore Towne Center and Bowie Town Center both lie outside of the beltway and provide some of the county’s best grocer and retail shopping options.

Then there are schools such as Dr. Henry Wise High School, Charles H. Flowers, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Oxon Hill, where much of the county’s elite send their kids—standardized test scores are markedly better there than at schools like Fairmont Heights, Central and Potomac – schools in shooting distance of the District border.

The divide is even seen in politics, as many of the most powerful people in the county have lived in outer-beltway communities. Former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson and wife Leslie live in Mitchellville, one of the more affluent neighborhoods in the county. The Johnsons, like other high-ranking officials, live in these neighborhoods, which tend to have better shopping, dining and education options.

However, things are changing, as current County Executive Rushern Baker lives in Cheverly, an inner-beltway community, while his kids attend Suitland High School. Baker spoke of that divide between officials in those communities in relation to officials in outer-beltway communities and the need to erase that gap.

“I think people are frustrated with the non-inclusion of the elected officials and the inability to work together to get things done,” Baker told the AFRO.

The county seems to be putting its money where its mouth is. It’s already made a commitment to upgrade areas around metro stations such as New Carrollton, Naylor Road, and Branch Avenue. The county may finally be looking to give inside the beltway communities the same options as outer communities.

“As county executive, the focal point I’m going to have is on the metro station attraction, especially inside our established communities inside the beltway and getting commercial business to grow there,” he said.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO