Yet another year has disappeared from the city’s screen. Residents and the officials of the City of College Park recently engaged in a lively discussion on what they think about the progress made in the past year and what to expect in 2011.
The city saw its leanest budget in years, due to thousands of dollars of loss in state revenues and property taxes. However, there were signs of progress that several city officials attempted to highlight.
Residents have mixed reactions to the slimmer funds and emphasized improvements.
The issue of public safety is still a hot-button issue. While Prince George’s County overall crime rates have seen a 35-year drop in the past year, the city has seen a modest rise in violent crimes such as assaults, homicides, and robberies. The overall violent crimes against persons, from 2009 to 2010, have increased 10%. Crimes against properties, such as burglaries during the same period have gone down 18.4%.
There are, however, attempts to improve public safety, especially in downtown area. “Crime is an issue, but as a result of a state grant we were able to install about 20 security cameras downtown at year’s end. In 2011 we will be able to judge their effectiveness and determine if such cameras are an economical substitute for adding more police,” said District 2 councilmember Bob Catlin.
There were no such security cameras for North College Park residents. The neighborhood was shocked by a sexual assault incident, wherein a 15 year girl was attacked by a stranger at the north entrance of the Greenbelt metro station in the summer of 2010. Though the suspect was arrested 3 months later, residents felt a security camera at the station entrance could have prevented the incident. The city will soon send a petition with over 300 signatures to WMATA asking for cameras to be installed at the station’s entrance.
There were concerns about police presence. PGPD’s District 1 had a new police chief in 2010 (Maj. Liberati) and a new community liaison officer (Jaron Black). The new leadership is publishing crime reports for the north and the south areas of College Park on a weekly basis. They also host a weekly morning coffee club gathering to update neighbors about the crime incidents.
Those efforts did not stop some residents from expecting more. “The police still do not get out of their cars and their reports still include inaccuracies and people still have trouble with responsiveness. I don’t think we will see any real changes unless and until we have our own police force, “said Stephen Jascourt, a north College Park resident. However, Mr. Jascourt does think that some attempts have been made to increasingly involve the police in the community and get more information to the community faster.