Stop tuning out the murders in Prince George’s


Update: There are now 12 people killed in the county. Also, the Post wrote a round-up of the crime spate on A1. Unfortunately, still haven’t heard anything from our political leaders on this issue.

11 days, 11 dead.

Depressing. Outrageous. And all is quiet, no buzz on the streets about 20-year-olds dropping to the ground, shot or stabbed to death, on the daily.

Our country is captivated with the shooting in Arizona, which killed six people and injured 14 — including high-profile victims like Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and a federal judge. But here at home — other than a clever connect-the-dots piece at DCist — it’s just business as usual.

The Post and The Examiner, per usual, provide the info and not much else on these killings in Prince George’s County, occurring at the rate of one killing per day in 2011 — a murder rate significantly higher than even the darkest days D.C. saw in the early 90s. The Gazette has done a nice wall-to-wall job of the coverage, but their voice only extends so far. Meanwhile, the rest of the country, and most of the DMV, is distracted by Tucson.

That shooting is newsworthy because a Congressman/woman had not been shot since the 70s. Meanwhile, people are killed every week in Washington and Prince George’s. So what’s the big deal? The violence will calm down and there will only be, say, 300 killings in the DMV this year. And people are OK with that?

Giffords’s brother-in-law Scott Kelly said it best when speaking of Saturday’s mass shooting in the Southwest: “We’re better than this. We must do better.” But this applies to our whole country, not just Arizona.

I don’t mean to sound accusatory, but many people I know tune out the daily death reports from our region, especially young transplants who feel they have no stake in people their own age getting killed five miles from their $1,500-a-month studio. It makes me sick. When someone dies at the hands of another person it affects countless families, schools, children, people, property values, perceptions and more. It shouldn’t be just Chandra Levy or the death of a Catholic University student that affects us. Every single killing is equally outrageous. Also notable but not yet mentioned: These homicides are occurring during the coldest month of the year, not the warmer months typically associated with spikes in crime rates.

I fear that if the spate of killings continues at this rate, the national media will latch on, but only to further their own purpose. Prince George’s will be painted as the most violent place in the country, a warzone, etc., just as D.C. has been for years, most recently with the South Capitol Street shooting, which notably killed significantly fewer people than the current crime wave in Prince George’s. I can see the Yahoo list now: America’s most violent suburbs.

I went to school in College Park. I worked in Laurel. Prince George’s is a place with nice houses, nice people and a fantastic music scene. I’ve been to Palmer Park in Landover; I’ve been to a go-go show in Temple Hills. This is a bustling suburban community, like dozens across our country, where people SHOULD NOT BE GETTING KILLED DAILY. Where is the outage?

Where is Rushern Baker holding a county-wide vigil, like that held on the Capitol Monday? Where is Vincent Gray offering to do whatever he can to help his neighbor? Where are our columnists and pundits, so quick to get their Sarah Palin on, to decry such violence in an affluent suburb of, again, one of the nicest places to live in the world?

I like to think this is all some grand oversight, because the alternative to that is much worse — that no one cares.  That scary thought process: Prince George’s is a violent area and will always be a violent area, but that’s OK because I live on Wisconsin Ave. NW or Clarendon Blvd. or in Kensington. That stuff doesn’t affect me or my family.

Is that where we are at now? Or are we, as Kelly said, better than this?

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