Prince George’s County officials are working hard to stem a tide of violence that swept the county in the early days of the new year. There have been 11 murders in the first 11 days of 2011, causing a mad scramble among public safety and executive level officials.

“We will stop the unacceptably high level of violence which has plagued our inner beltway communities since the beginning of the year,” said Interim Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw in a statement. “This will be a concerted, sustained effort that will include the PGPD, Office of the Sheriff, municipal police departments, Federal agencies, and community & business leaders. Together, we are a formidable force that will bring calm to all segments of our County.”

As a result, Magaw has made several changes to the police department. Close to 25 detectives have been transferred to new divisions or task forces, the PGPD and Office of the Sheriff will now join forces to serve warrants, all municipal police chiefs will participate in conference calls to coordinate operations and meetings will be held with community leaders to discuss what can be done.

Maj. Joseph McCann will coordinate all special enforcement actions in Districts I, III and IV, the inner beltway communities where many of the homicides are happening.

County Executive Rushern Baker, going through his first major crisis on the job, said he has kept a close eye on the violence and said is in constant contact with the police department.

“Clearly we’re concerned about it. The police chief is on top of it,” Baker told WTOP radio on Jan. 11. “I had a meeting yesterday with the police chief, the state’s attorney, the sheriff and we’re coordinating our efforts.”

Baker has also been meeting with community leaders since the violence erupted. He paid a visit Sunday to Community of Hope Church in Temple Hills in an outreach effort.

“I think we’re doing everything we can in terms of reaching out to the public,” Baker continued. “Clearly, there needs to be more done, not only on the part of the police department, but also on the part of my office. We will be reaching out to the faith community and to community groups and asking for their help because that’s where we’re going to get the leads to close these cases.”

That kind of cooperation led to the first arrest in connection with the 11 murders. James Edward Taylor, 17, was arrested and charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of 26-year-old Maurice Valentine on Jan. 6 in Seat Pleasant. Citizens provided an accurate description of Taylor as he allegedly fled the scene. He was apprehended soon after.

“This is a text book example of the community and police department working together quickly to solve a murder,” Magaw said in a statement. “Residents were willing to get involved and give us the critical information we needed right away. A detective was on scene within a minute, and patrol officers quickly set up a perimeter, allowing us to capture the murderer within 10 minutes of the killing.”

On Jan. 11, the police officials announced the arrests of Vincent Eugene Miles, 29, and Neil Elmore Lawrence, 31, in connection with the Jan. 5 homicide of 30-year-old Terrance Calvin Hunter at Southview Apartments in Oxon Hill. They also announced the arrest of Donte Douglas, 18, in connection with the Jan. 9 homicide of 21-year-old Corteza Warren Livingston in Forestville. All three have been charged with first-degree murder.

A 12th killing occurred the night of Jan. 11, but police officials say it was self-defense. An intruder was shot trying to break-in a Lanham-area home. Initial reports indicate the incident was justified.

Baker said he hopes to have arrests in other cases soon. Sources within his administration said a formal announcement may follow later this week.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO