Crime drops in Edmonston
Police cite visibility, community outreach in 70 percent decrease of violent offenses
Edmonston has seen a dramatic drop in crime during the past five years, a trend town officials are crediting to increased police visibility and community outreach.
Since 2005, overall crime has dropped 69.65 percent, which includes a steady drop of 72 percent in property crime from 232 incidents in 2005 to 64 in 2010, according to data from the Edmonston Police Department.
Crimes against persons have dropped 44 percent, from 25 incidents in 2005 to 14 in 2010, although numbers have fluctuated. There were 26 incidents in 2007 and 12 incidents in both 2008 and 2009.
In 2010 alone, overall crime dropped 8 percent.
Police Chief Stephen Walker cited an increase in patrols and overall visibility by the department's six officers as a factor in the reductions.
"We put a lot of emphasis in being out in our community," Walker said, adding that the department actively enforces parking and traffic violations as a means of reducing other offenses. "Studies show that reduces crime."
Walker said his department, also does what they call "knock and talk," where officers knock on the doors of homes in the town and introduce themselves to residents.
Mayor Adam Ortiz praised the department's community-policing procedures, including the use of bilingual materials. "We encourage and are open to all calls from residents, regardless of their language ability or background," he said.
Ortiz estimates that as much as 40 percent of the about 1,350 residents of the town are Spanish-speakers, so bilingual services are crucial, he said.
The department has one Spanish-speaking officer, and the office staff is all bilingual, Ortiz said.
Violent and property crime decreased across Prince George's County by 35 percent from 2005 to 2009, according to data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report data. Information from 2010 is not yet available.
Several nearby municipalities have seen a drop in crime in recent years as well.
Bladensburg has seen a 17 percent drop in violent and property crime, from 2008 to 2010. In 2010 alone, crime dropped 10 percent from the previous year, from 714 incidents to 642.
Community outreach similar to that in Edmonston has been instrumental in Bladensburg's drop, said Police Chief Charles Owens. Bladensburg's department has 18 officers, including Owens.
"There is no magic bullet," Owens said. "What we are doing is forging partnerships with the community."
Hyattsville saw a 10 percent drop from 1,921 incidents in 2008 to 1,733 in 2009, and Riverdale Park saw a 37 percent drop from 2006 to 2009, from 479 offenses to 300.
Ortiz said the feedback the town has gotten from residents has been supportive. "[Residents] are comfortable ringing up the police chief or flagging down an officer to chat."
Edmonston resident Michael Eccleston praised both the sense of community in the town and the police force.
"Everybody's really friendly. Everybody looks out for everybody," Eccleston said. "The [police] are very pleasant."