UP CRIME adobe stock image
Most thefts in University Park involve stolen property from unlocked cars, police say.
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Theft increased while violent crime stagnated in University Park in 2023, according to the town’s police department, which has been struggling with officer shortages.

Incidents of larceny and theft in University Park have increased by more than half since 2019, according to the police department’s 2023 annual report released at the end of February. The majority of cases that police respond to are theft from cars, University Park Police Chief Harvey Baker said. 

“At night, people walk through the community and check the doors,” Baker said. “If the car is unlocked, they get in there really quick to see if there’s anything of value. If there is, they remove it and run, and they’re gone.”

In an attempt to prevent crime in the community, the police department launched an initiative in June 2021 called the 9 p.m. Routine. The initiative  encourages residents to check their homes and vehicles every night, taking personal property indoors to prevent theft, locking all doors and turning on outdoor lights.

Baker posted to his blog last month to remind residents of the safety checks. 

“The success of the initiative depends on your participation,” he wrote.

Baker also credited community participation and good resident/police relationships for the town’s lack of increase in violent crime, despite spiking trends elsewhere in Prince George’s County. 

The data showed no incidents of homicide, robbery or rape in University Park last year. The two reported cases of assault are consistent with trends from the previous year, Baker said.

“I think it’s good fortune,” he noted. “There’s no invisible wall around University Park, but you have a very engaged community. As soon as they see some behavior that looks suspicious, they’ll notify us.”

Anomalies do still occur, though. 

At the end of January, a passenger carjacked his Uber driver on East-West Highway and Adelphi Road, Baker said.

Baker noted in his blog that before the driver was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, he told police the suspect struck him in the head with a handgun and took his car.

Baker also said county police took over the case before the suspect was fatally shot the next morning by New Carrollton police. 

“That was the first time we had one of those in probably 15 years or more,”  he said.

The report came as University Park has experienced a shortage of police officers. Despite town council approval for an additional two full-time officers, the department started and ended 2023 with only eight, according to the report.

“We have a lot of vacancies,” Baker said. “We’re a small agency, and it makes it even more challenging for us because we can’t offer the incentives that a larger agency can.”

The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a loss of more than 14,000 local police jobs throughout the nation between 2019 and 2022. 

“It’s a national problem,” Baker said. “Currently, law enforcement is not really a field that a lot of people want to go into.”