Jayda Medrano-Moore, a 16-year-old Prince George’s County resident, was fatally shot outside of Duvall High School in Lanham on Sept. 11. Also in September, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services released a  report showing a dramatic rise in juvenile handgun violations and carjacking violations in the state. 

Crime reports published by the Laurel Police Department show that the city’s highest reported incidents of crime in 2023 have been: theft, including shoplifting and cars, and car theft.

In that light, how safe do Laurel residents feel in their city? What advice would they give local officials about ensuring safety for the city’s youth? Robert Stewart, a graduate journalism student at the University of Maryland, asked residents on Laurel’s Main Street and at Towne Centre Laurel these questions.

Naomi McMillen, 34

Q: How safe do you feel in Laurel?

A: “I mean, I feel relatively safe in the city of Laurel, just because I have not had an adverse incident, and crime rates seem pretty low here. But when you do hear of those incidents, you think about prevention, and just because it hasn’t happened here, doesn’t mean that it can’t.”

Q: We are having mayoral elections in November. What advice would you give a future mayor of Laurel to ensure our young people continue to feel safe in the city? 

A: “First, reduce the amount of guns that get into youths’ hands, but also reduce the reason why youth want to use guns in the first place. Because you can get rid of the guns, but if the issue, the systemic problem is still there, then it needs to be dealt with. 

I think there needs to be a continued focus on opportunities for young people; things to keep them busy. A  lot of the kids that get into trouble are extremely creative people. Somehow, harnessing that energy somewhere … I think a lot of kids just don’t know what to do, and everything is all messed up in society. So, just having direction would be helpful.”

Chris Brant, 58

Q: How safe do you feel in Laurel?

A: “I feel that we’re pretty safe. We’ve lived here for 37 years, and while definitely, you know, we see crime, I never feel at risk myself, like coming out here, doing any shopping or going out to eat, I don’t feel in danger at all — or in our home, in our community.

“Everyone — should be cautious … should be aware of their surroundings, but I don’t feel that this area, this neighborhood, this community, is more dangerous than most.”

We are having mayoral elections in November. What advice would you give a future mayor of Laurel to ensure the safety of Laurel’s young people?

A: “It would be nice if there were some community activities for young people. I don’t feel like there’s a lot for them to do in Laurel. They have to make their own fun, which sometimes leads to problems, or they have to go outside of Laurel. So, I think that [it] would be nice to have some community activities for young people.”

Carlos Cardwell, 40

Q: How safe do you feel in Laurel?

A: “As far as this part of Laurel, it’s pretty safe. You can walk up and down the street with no problem. You do have parts of P[rince] G[eorge’s] County where they would consider more, I guess, dangerous. But another thing, coming from where I come from, I’m from D.C., not a good part of D.C. So, I grew up around it. Coming out to Maryland point blank was …. peace of mind. It was a totally different vibe. I could say I feel safe, but I can’t speak for everybody. “

Q: We are having mayoral elections in November. What advice would you give a future mayor of Laurel to ensure the safety of Laurel’s young people? 

A: “As far as the kids, the policing has to change. I would think that, not just more police, visually. They have to get out and get involved with the kids. You can’t just lock a kid up and think that they’re not going to go back. You have to deter that, whether it’s talking to the parents or them being mentors, you know? So, it’s a touchy situation, but something has to be done, because we are talking about our kids, and they are the future.”

Laura Guenin, Laurel Police Department public information officer

To questions about police engagement with youth, Guenin responded in an email that the police engage with young people in the city in several ways. The Laurel Police Department (LPD) hosts a summer camp, runs the D.A.R.E program  (Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which is designed to help youth make good choices) for the city’s elementary schools, and holds community events for the city’s youth.

Guenin also wrote that the LPD will partner with other agencies and religious organizations to hold a workshop for children ages 11 through 18 to foster discussion on themes important to them from 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Partnership Activity Hall, 811 5th Street.