By ALEXANDER PYLES
View Homicides in Prince George's County, 2011 in a larger map.
PALMER PARK, Md. (January 19, 2011) Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and county law enforcement officials called on the community Tuesday to assist in identifying criminals, in response to a spate of 13 homicides in the county since Jan. 1.
Acting Police Chief Mark Magaw also announced arrests had been made in connection with the Jan. 1 killing of Ansel Donovan Whitelocke, 58, of Chillum.
It's the fourth case to be declared closed by police out of 12 being investigated as criminal homicides. Last week's shooting of a man attempting to break into a home in the 7400 block of Riverdale Road in New Carrollton is being considered a justifiable homicide by the county state's attorney's office.
Baker, flanked by Magaw, Sheriff Melvin C. High and State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks, condemned a culture that looks at aiding law enforcement as "snitching," and said the community plays an equal part—along with police and the state's attorney—in maintaining public safety.
"Snitching is not when you aren't doing anything wrong and you tell on somebody who's been doing something wrong," Baker said. "Snitching is when you're in violence together, and you try to craft a deal for yourself.
"Honest people, men and women, who every day get up and go to work, do nothing wrong, should not be fearful of walking outside their door."
Magaw said up to a $25,000 reward is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to "the arrest and conviction of those responsible" through the Chief's Special Rewards, a County Police program that compensates tipsters for information on violent crimes.
He urged citizens to take advantage of Crime Solvers (1-866-411-tips), which allows informants to make anonymous tips to police.
"We believe that there are people in the community who may have information about who committed these murders," Magaw said.
Prince George's residents in attendance echoed the sentiments of officials, saying the community must become more invested in its own well-being.
The county clocked 90 homicides in 2010.
"We need more and more citizens involved in response," said Frank Cockrell, vice president of the Calverton Citizen's Association. Cockrell said reaching youths at a young age and "empowering the ones who can be swayed" is the only way a culture of violence can be curbed.
"There (are) many factors that have changed our culture," said Les Greenberg, of Clinton, a member of the Citizens Advisory Council in council Districts 4 and 5. "I think we need to take a step back, maybe, and take a look at a lot of issues," including instilling in youths a sense of civic responsibility. That sense of responsibility is what the state's attorney said her office is addressing through a program called "Speak Up," which tries to reach students in schools at a young age.
"People are uncomfortable coming forward," Alsobrooks said. "The other thing we've encountered ... is a culture we've created in our young people which says you should not snitch. We're working now to combat that."
To try to suppress this year's spike in violence, County Police have received aid from municipal police departments, the Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police. Agents from the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been embedded into the county's homicide unit to assist, Magaw said.
The killings vary in motive, ranging from drug-related robberies to personal disputes to gang activity, Magaw said. In some cases, the department is still trying to determine a motive.
The first homicide occurred Jan. 1 with the slaying of Whitelocke, who was found dead at his apartment in the 5700 block of Cypress Creek Drive in Chillum.
The most recent came Jan. 11 when Justin Vance Desha-Overcash, a 22-year-old University of Maryland, College Park student, was shot dead at his home in the 8800 block of 38th Avenue in College Park. Enough marijuana to indicate an intent to distribute was taken from the apartment by police, along with a digital scale and drug-packaging materials, police said. That case is still under investigation, Magaw said.