National Night Out Has Added Importance in 2011

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Prince George’s County celebrated National Night Out like the rest out the country on Aug. 2, but this year it had added significance given the surge in the county’s murder rate.

With 15 homicides in the month of January, the county got off to one of its deadliest years in recent memory and hasn’t been able to stem the tide.

One of the ways to counter crime is by increasing community vigilance and that’s why many public officials say National Night Out is so important.

Maryland Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D.-Dist. 23, speaking at an event at Target in Largo, stressed how important it was for the community to be involved after citizens in his neighborhood banded together to catch a criminal.

“I started a neighborhood watch,” Peters said. “I had a rapist in my community. I became a neighborhood watch coordinator and we caught the rapist because all of us in the community had eyes. ”

Still, the community isn’t the only way to fight crime in the county and that’s why County Executive Rushern Baker worked with public safety officials to take an aggressive approach to stemming the string of homicides. The county shifted officer duties, called on help from the Sheriff’s Department and pulled in officers from federal and state law enforcement agencies.

In a further measure, the county has passed new safety regulations for nightclubs, which make club owners responsible for the security and safety of patrons at their clubs.

“Requiring security standards for each establishment, such as operable and recordable indoor and outdoor cameras, may provide invaluable assistance to police investigating crimes in and around dance halls,” Cpl. Evan Baxter, a department spokesman, said.

“With increased security comes increased accountability, which is the key.”

Events were held across the county in Upper Marlboro, Largo, Clinton, Bowie, and Temple Hills among other places. Overall there were about 50 events during National Night Out. Baker was scheduled to attend five events.