Crime rise steady in 2002 despite police dept. changes
Jan. 8, 2003
Greg Johnson
Staff Writer




Crime rates continued to surge in Prince George's County in 2002 in spite of a new police chief, who was installed in the spring.

After declining for several years in the 1990s, the number of reported crimes in the county surged in 2002 for the second year in a row. As of Dec. 26, the number of homicides climbed to 135 -- an 18 percent jump over the level reported during the same period last year. The current total for carjackings is also 10 percent higher than it was by last December. Rapes were also up almost 4 percent.

Although many changes took place within county law enforcement, problems with crime remained.

Less than six weeks into 2002, former police chief John Farrell announced that he was stepping down from the Prince George's County Police Department nine months before the end of his contract. Farrell, who was brought in to head the agency in 1995, said he decided to retire early to spend more time with his family.

Farrell's replacement, current Police Chief Gerald Wilson, took control as acting chief on March 1 and was recognized July 30 as the 13th police chief in Prince George's County history.

The law enforcement community and the entire county were shocked and saddened when two deputies, 53-year-old Sgt. James Arnaud and 30-year-old Deputy Elizabeth Magruder, were shot and killed Aug. 29 while attempting to serve a warrant for an emergency psychological evaluation in Adelphi.

The alleged killer, 23-year-old James Logan, has been charged with two-counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and is currently being evaluated at a state hospital.

On Sept. 10, Michael Jackson was voted in as the Democratic nominee for sheriff. He ran unchallenged in November's general election and has pledged to improve staffing levels at the agency.

Police officers were put on alert Oct. 7 after a sniper shooting was reported at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie. Iran Brown, 13, was shot in the stomach as he walked into the school. Brown survived his injuries and has since returned to school.

The two suspects, John Muhammad and John Malvo, were charged Nov. 1 with attempted murder by then-State's Attorney Jack Johnson.

Johnson, now county executive, said the two men will face justice in Prince George's County after the completion of 10 sniper-related cases in other Washington-area jurisdictions.

The issue of police procedures became a controversial topic shortly after Johnson took office Dec. 2. Five people were shot by county officers in four unrelated incidents Dec. 10, 11 and 12. New State's Attorney Glenn Ivey said an investigator from his office is conducting an independent review of the incidents.

One critic of the department, Bowie resident and civil rights attorney Malik Shabazz, said the recent shootings show that county police are out of control.

"The bloody days are back in Prince George's County," Shabazz said during a demonstration in Upper Marlboro Dec. 17.

E-mail Greg Johnson at

gjohnson@gazette.net.