Editor's Note (May 5, 2021 8:57 p.m. EST): During interviews, county officials referenced midnight basketball as a summer nighttime activity for kids. At the time of publication, Prince George’s County does not have plans to resume midnight basketball.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is dedicating the summer of 2021 to the memory of 13-year-old King Douglas, who was shot and killed last month allegedly by a 12-year-old boy. Alsobrooks said the killing is part of a growing national trend in juvenile crime, worsened by a lack of positive alternatives under COVID-19 restrictions.
The county’s plan to interrupt the troubling trend involves giving young people more options for activities that help them heal emotionally from the pandemic and provide more positive choices.
“I reject outright the reality that any child in Prince George’s County should ever lose their life on the street," Alsobrooks said.
Police said nearly 100 unsupervised kids were gathered outside the Dave & Buster’s at Ritchie Station marketplace in Capitol Heights when the shooting happened.
In all of 2020, Prince George's County juveniles were responsible for 49 carjacking cases and seven homicides. So far in 2021, they're responsible for 13 carjacking cases and four homicides already. King’s killing was the latest.
“It does not say anything about King Douglas and about the child who killed him but it does say something really strongly about the adults of our community, and that's the reason we are responding,” Alsobrooks said.
The county will dedicate this summer to King’s memory with a robust program by the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation centered around education, entrepreneurship, experience and fun.
“It is our responsibility and all the adults need to step up and help,” Elizabeth Hewlett, of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said. “We are the village. We have to act like the village.”
Programs will run from 9 a.m. to midnight and beyond with a focus on after-hours outlets for teens.
“There's Safe Summer, which are like parties on the weekends for our teenagers to attend at some of our community centers throughout Prince George’s County,” Angel Waldron, spokesperson for Prince George's County Parks and Recreation, said.
Near the beginning of the pandemic, Alsobrooks ordered the county’s nearly 200 basketball hoops to be removed to encourage social distancing. The hoops are now being put back up and basketball courts should be fully operational by this weekend.
The county executive said soon she will be rolling back more of her COVID-19 restrictions in order to allow children to participate in more parks and recreation activities. For a full list of activities, go to pgparks.com.
Alsobrooks added that while the government is doing its part, the rest is up to the community.
“We believe that our children serve as mirrors and what they mirror is what we give them," she said.