Emotions boiled over in Prince George's County Thursday evening during a community forum to discuss the recent uptick in violent crime.
County leaders gathered in Suitland for what was billed as a solutions-based conversation.
The packed house inside the Creative Suitland Arts Center demonstrated how much the community cares about reducing crime.
Explosions of emotion offered the clearest indication of the trauma the community has endured as violent crime rises.
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“We got to talk truth here,” one man in attendance said. “I’m a surviving shooting victim myself. I have a rod in my leg. So, you’re not going to silence me nor my people.”
While the 24 murders so far this year represent a reduction compared to this time last year, robbery, assault and carjackings are on the rise.
The county’s solution is investing in violence interrupters, mental health services, recruiting more officers and a newly established violence prevention task force.
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“We’re not here tonight talking about what we think we might do,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said. “We’re here tonight talking about actual solutions that the government has put forward, including hope in action.”
That effort is being led by Rev. Tony Lee, pastor at 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 have patience when lives are at risk,” he said.
“We can do what we can do with what we have while building for an even better future to have even greater impact,” he said.
Alsobrooks called Thursday’s conversation constructive, but some said the focus was too narrow and focused on juvenile offenders too much.
“This is a balanced approach,” Alsobrooks said. “We understand that our young people become adults, and what we want is to be able to get in front of them now and to mold the kind of adults that they become.”
While the delivery may not have been constructive to some, Alsobrooks believes passion and differing opinions from an engaged community can help solve the problem.
“I think we come up with the best solutions sometimes when we have this kind of tension present,” she said.