Emotions boiled over in Prince George’s County Thursday night during a community forum to discuss the recent rise in violent crime.
County leaders gathered in Suitland for what was billed as a solution-focused conversation.
The packed house inside the Creative Suitland Arts Center demonstrated just how much the community cares about reducing crime.
The outbursts of emotion offered the clearest indication of the trauma the community has endured as violent crime increases.
“We have to tell the truth here,” said a man present. “I myself am a surviving victim of a shooting. I have a rod in my leg. So you’re not going to silence me or my people.
While the 24 murders so far this year represent a reduction from the same period last year, robberies, assaults and carjackings are on the rise.
The county’s solution is to invest in violence interrupters, mental health services, hiring more officers and a new violence prevention task force.
“We’re not here tonight to talk about what we think we can do,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said. “We are here tonight to talk about the real solutions the government has offered, including hope in action.”
That effort is being led by the Reverend Tony Lee, pastor of Community of Hope AME church, who says these solutions take time, but he knows patience is wearing thin.
“It takes time to build anything solid, but I don’t think we can be patient when lives are at risk,” he said.
“We can do what we can do with what we have while building an even better future to have an even bigger impact,” he said.
Alsobrooks called Thursday’s conversation constructive, but some said the focus was too narrow and too focused on juvenile offenders.
“It’s a balanced approach,” Alsobrooks said. “We understand that our young people are growing into adults, and what we want is to be able to stand in front of them now and shape the kind of adults they become.”
While the delivery may not have been constructive for some, Alsobrooks believes the passion and differing opinions of an engaged community can help solve the problem.
“I think sometimes we come up with the best solutions when we have that kind of tension,” she said.