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Crime surge has citizens on high alert

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Posted on: August 14, 2014

Community meeting on recent crime – Thursday, August 14, at 7 p.m.
West Hyattsville Baptist Church located at 3100 Nicholson St., Hyattsville

A recent spate of violent crime on the west side of the city has raised a variety of questions about crime trends, the resources available to the police force, and the city’s safety in general.

The high-profile incidents included a sexual assault on July 10, another on July 23, a shooting that wounded two teenagers on July 30, and a stabbing on August 3. A final incident occurred on August 10, when the 7-11 on Hamilton street was robbed. No injuries were reported. According to information released by the Hyattsville City Police Department, all but one of the incidents occurred in West Hyattsville. Two suspects have been arrested in the shooting, though all investigations are ongoing.

The City is discussing ways to improve the safety of residents, particularly in the area where most of the recent violence occurred. Ward 4 Councilmembers Paula Perry and Edouard Haba organized a community meeting with police on Thursday, August 14, at 7 p.m., at the site of the shooting (30th Avenue between Lancer Avenue and Lancer Place). Del. Alonzo Washington (D-22) and Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-22) were expected to attend, along with other elected officials.

City crime reports suggest that it is unusual to see so many incidents in such a short time. Hyattsville crime levels have dropped over the past few years. Assaults, for example, decreased by almost 15 percent between 2008 and 2013. A comparison of January through July 2014 to the same period in 2013 shows a 9 percent decrease in assaults. Rapes increased from one to three – 200 percent. But the total number of incidents is small compared to Hyattsville’s population of nearly 18,000. The three rapes so far in 2014 translate to a rate of about one incident per 6,000 residents.

Violent crime was among the topics of discussion at August 4’s City Council meeting.

“I feel our police department is doing the absolute best that they can do but they cannot be everywhere all the time,” said Perry. On Tuesday, August 5, the City held a celebration for the National Night Out Against Crime, which concluded with a Take Back the Night Walk.

“We had a lot of people walk with us, supporting what the police department does, our vision, our mission,” said Lt. Chris Purvis, speaking on behalf of the Hyattsville City Police. He estimated about 100 people participated in the walk, many of them residents of the neighborhood in which the shooting took place. “We did walk by the area where the shooting occurred,” he said.

He said police are increasing patrols west of Queens Chapel road, as they would for any area with an increase in reported crime.

“What we police try to do is to find when and where that crime is being committed and bring a presence to that area,” Purvis explained.

As for keeping safe, “There’s always safety in numbers,” said Purvis. “…If you have to walk somewhere, try to walk with a friend. If you have to walk by yourself, try to carry a cell phone… If something doesn’t feel right, if something’s out of character, change your behavior.”

The Hyattsville police department is handling the first three investigations, while the Washington Metropolitan and Transit Authority is conducting the investigation of the stabbing because it occurred on Metro property.

In the sexual assaults, both women described their attackers as a Hispanic male, 5 feet 8 inches tall, though one said he was 20 to 25 and the other put his age at between 30 and 35 years. The second victim estimated his weight at 170 pounds. Though the estimated ages were different, Purvis said the descriptions are close enough it is probable that the attackers were the same person.

Break-ins in Ward 5 have also drawn public attention, with many residents voicing concerns at recent council meetings. Police are investigating, and anyone with information regarding the crimes above should call the Hyattsville City Police at 301.985.5060.

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