Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crime Down in District 1

Crime rates in all categories are falling, except for auto thefts, Maj. Hector Velez tells residents at Experience and Enjoy College Park.

After experiencing a 34-year low in crime in 2010, the rates continue to go down for all of District 1 this year, according to Maj. Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police.

Crime is down in every category except for auto theft, he told a crowd of about 30 College Park residents at the Experience and Enjoy College Park gathering Friday.

Since January, violent crime went down 11.3 percent, and property crime decreased 4.5 percent. The total crime rate in the district fell 5.8 percent, said Velez, the District 1 commander.

“A lot of that comes from targeting those people who are repeat offenders,” he said.

The rate of auto thefts in the district has spiked because of the number of scooters stolen this year, Velez said.

“Stealing these scooters is very easy,” he said. It requires yanking the handlebars to break the lock and then clipping three wires, he said.

In addition to the crimes committed by those who “come through the system all the time,” many crimes are committed by individuals who attend house parties, see property they want, and then return to the house later to take it.

There has also been a downward trend in crime across the county, he said. Violent crimes are down 11.6 percent, property crime by 8.5 percent, and the total crime rate is down 8.9 percent, he said.

Velez was the guest speaker at Experience and Enjoy College Park, which gathers community leaders and residents at local restaurants. Friday’s event was held at Azteca Cantina and Restaurant, which opened in September.

Councilman Marcus Afzali (Dist.4), an organizer for the event, recognized Azteca owner James Burick.

“Thank you for turning one of the run-down buildings on Route 1 into a nice establishment,” Afzali said, met with enthusiastic applause.

Here is a summary of other public safety topics Velez touched on:

Metro Safety

The College Park-University of Maryland metro station was recently named the sixth most dangerous in the system. Velez said although county police officers do monitor the area around the station, it’s under the jurisdiction of the Metro Transit Police Department.


Velez said he has put a lieutenant in charge of reviewing the current process for responding to riots, such as the one that occurred in March 2010 following a University of Maryland win over the Duke basketball team. Several students were arrested, and two county police officers were recently indicted for beating a student.

Velez said the department has met with the university student government to discuss the issue. He said it took just a few officers to tarnish the reputation of the entire department, but that a few students can also ruin the reputation of the Maryland student body.

“How many people look at that and think, ‘Is that where you have all the riots?’” he said.

No High-Rise Apartment Crime

Velez said there have been no reports of crime in the area of the new student high-rise apartments. Students living in the high rises have made a lot of noise complaints, however.

Pedestrian Safety

A point of contact within the department has been appointed to operate a pedestrian safety program. Velez said the department is communicating with students for ideas, such as a contest that encourages students to wear helmets.

Article and photos courtesy of the College Park Patch

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