Upper Marboro: (Reform Sasscer) – Following our exposé of local government corruption and a rundown of rise in youth violent crime in Prince George’s county School system (PGCPS), leaders led by the county Executive Angela Alsobrooks are reacting to the news and showing their support to help eradicate the youth crime syndicate.
Prince George’s county is experiencing a rise in homicides and gun violence incidents that began last year when the pandemic tightened its grip on the United States. With violent crime on the rise again, and more kids committing those crimes, leaders in Prince George’s County admit the solution isn’t just more government.
Tom Marvin, a member of the Reform Sasscer Movement coalition, a regional community-led organization addressing criminal justice /education reform as well as economic and social justice, said most of the violent incidents that occur in the county involve people “who know each other.”
“If it’s two people who know each other, clearly there is some contact that has risen to a point now that is being resolved violently instead of being resolved peacefully,” Marvin said.
But a new program that county leaders announced Monday following our article on grapple with trend published on Saturday February 26th, hopes to harness the ability of government — along with local community groups already in action — to help turn things around.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks admitted she is frustrated by what’s going on, and she acknowledged that the solution goes beyond policing and government programs.
Instead, an initiative called “The Hope Collective” will coordinate with nonprofit groups to diffuse violence and provide “hope” to kids who just stopped caring about life and their communities — and show them a different way.
“A lot of kids don’t see that adults care enough,” said Euniesha Davis, the director of Prince George’s County’s Office of Community Relations.
“Being able to position them in a place where they’re able to take advantage of the opportunity, and by showcasing and modeling positive behavior, we believe that we can bring back kids to what I’d say is the good side, right?”
“The program uses four strategies to reduce gun violence,” said Alsobrooks. That includes “peacekeepers” she said, to go with diversionary programs for offenders and non-offenders.
More funding also will go toward afterschool enrichment programs, as well as programs that target food insecurity, she said.
The last prong is the county’s violence prevention task force, which includes 20 different people from varying backgrounds who will “meet and identify areas of critical need where we need more resources and will work on a plan to ensure that we get resources in the areas that need them the most.”
Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz praised the diversified approach to the problem that ensures “we do everything we can not only to combat crime but to uplift and empower our children and to unify our community.”
But at the beginning of the news conference, Alsobrooks made clear that the most effective way to stem the tide involves parents doing more. The county executive is also the mother of a 16-year-old daughter, and she recounted how important it is for her to drive her daughter to school every day to talk to her. She begged the county’s other parents to do the same thing.
“Please, ma’am, please, sir, do me a favor,” she pleaded.
“Sit these kids down and ask them what’s going on. Don’t miss the chance to connect with your child and ask them what they’re seeing, what they feel, what their hopes are, what their concerns are, what their fears are.”
It’s also important, she said, to ask kids why they feel what’s happening is occurring.
“Do me a favor and listen. Listen. Please let’s listen to our children,” she added. “We have got to get into our children’s business. It is critical.”
Alsobrooks said that having those conversations with her own daughter has taught her lots, and that she hopes more of those discussions will help county leaders find the right answers.
The rise in violent crime is an epidemic that is happening “all across the region” with Prince George’s county being an epicenter to major crimes. There are three major factors driving the episodes: the impact of Covid-19 on communities and first responders, the fallout of the social unrest after the murder of George Floyd, and the surge in gun sales since the start of the pandemic fueled by easy access to drugs. Marijuana is the most popular drug, Wise High senior Tom said, but more students are also using LSD.