City’s Crime Stats Show Mixed Results

Liberati at NCPCA

Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD)’s new Commander for District 1 Major Robert Liberati was at this month’s NCPCA meeting at Davis Hall. In the meeting, he made a PowerPoint presentation on the recent crime statistics in our city.

The overall result Mr. Liberati presented can be summarized in one word – “mixed“. 

Maj. Leberati said that the overall violent crimes against persons, such as homicides, assaults, robberies from 2009 to 2010 have increased 10%, whereas crimes against properties, such as burglaries during the same period have gone down 18.4%. The percentage of changes in crimes against persons and properties from year 2008 to 2009 are -18.8% and -15.2% respectively.

He attributed last year’s rise in violent crimes against persons to an increase in citizen robberies (from 17 to 22) and assaults (34 to 42). He also noted that the number of burglaries, thefts and stolen vehicles have gone down during the past year.

At the end of his presentation, he answered a few questions from the members.

  • He asked members to notify the Police about any vacant or foreclosed houses, which he said the Police can keep an eye on.
  • He commented that remotely monitored safety alarm systems may not be always effective, since most burglars know how to disable such systems by disconnecting telephone lines.
  • He also cautioned against false alarms which may result in fines. He said 97% of alarms are false in nature. He said most of the burglaries are not done in a planned way, thus taking simple precautions may help in avoiding such crimes.
  • He advised residents to keep a record of their valuable property items’ ID (serial numbers etc.) so that they can be easily recovered should these items end up in pawn shops after thefts.

Education Board Election Guide

In two days, you’ll get he chance to choose the next representative to the board of education in District 2, which includes College Park. There are two candidates running for this position – both of them are officials working for the City of College Park. I’ve compiled a side-by-side list of their backgrounds and the issues they stand on. Hope you will find them useful to decide who to vote next Tuesday.  

   Peggy Higgins  Mark Cook
 Education
  • MA, general administration/state and local govt, Univ MD/Univ College;
  • MA, social work, Catholic University
  •  AA, Miami-Dade Community College; course work, Georgetown University and Catholic University
 Occupation
  • Director, City of College Park Youth, Family and Senior Services
  • College Park City Councilman; Technology
  • Performance management adviser.
Elected offices / Civic activities
  • Member and past president, Md Assoc of Youth Services Bureaus
  • Former member, PG Co. Head Start Policy Council
  • Founding member, Lakeland STARS;
  • Member, NAACP;
  • Member, National Federation of Business and Professional Women.
  • College Park City Council, 2007-10;
  • Board member, Prince George’s Family Crisis Center;
  • Chair, College Park Advisory Planning Commission (zoning board);
  • Past member, College Park’s Committee for a Better Environment;
  • Past co-chair, Public Affairs Group of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce.
Campaign Focus Cultivate “schools we have confidence in.” She stressed that parents and families need to have confidence that the schools are going to be able to challenge and educate their children fully. Work to promote smaller class sizes, fight to maintain current funding and staffing levels, find ways to retain skilled instructors and protect the programs that position the school system for future growth and improvements
Endorsements
  • The Washington Post
  • Almost every official in District 2 — including Iliff, five of College Park’s seven other council members
  • County Councilman Eric C. Olson (D-Dist. 3) of College Park
  • The District 21 and 22 state legislative delegations
  • AFL-CIO and officials including state Attorney General Douglas Gansler (D)
  • Chris Nagle, Dist 1, College Park Council member
  • Former District 4 Board of Education member Linda Thornton Thomas
Website www.electhiggins.org www.markcook.com

City’s Compost Program To End Soon

As the new leaf collection season approaches fast, the City’s Public Works is planning to end the Smart leaf compost program soon.

Smartleaf® compost is also called College Park’s Black Gold by those who have used it. It is rich in nutrients, so it will keep your flowers and grass happy!

The Public works make their deliveries on Thursdays and Fridays. The charges are $18.55 per cubic yard (including tax) and delivery within College Park is $20.00 if we delivery between 1-6 cubic yards, and $30.00 if they deliver between 7-12 cubic yards. You can pay the driver cash (exact change, please), leave a check for the driver to pick up, or you can drop payment off to Public Works, or they can process a credit card payment, whatever is more convenient for you.
 
Let them also know if you have a specific delivery spot in mind; normally the driver will just back into the driveway as far as possible before unloading the compost; the driver cannot drive across the lawn or unload the compost on the sidewalk or in the street.

Call Stacey King, City’s Department of Public Works Admin. Assist./Recycling Coordinator, if you plan to order compost before the program end. Stacey’s phone numbers are 240-487-3590 (main) and 240-487-3593 (direct).

For more information about the program, please click here on the City’s website.

Humbling Himself, Dernoga Kills Own Bill

Last Tuesday, the county saw a triumph of democracy at Upper Marlboro’s County Council hearing room.

In a week’s time, the county residents would be getting a new Council, so for many council members, it was the last Council session of their terms. Many of them were busy in pushing a number of controversial bills on this day and getting them passed.

It was in the afternoon session, when bill CB-73-2010 was introduced in the chamber for voting. The chamber was fully packed by residents concerned with the possible passage of the bill. Many of the residents were standing in the room – a scene very uncommon in a typical county council session. According to this Washington Post report, some 200 residents joined the session.

Just three weeks ago, on Sept. 28, the outgoing County Council Chair Mr. Dernoga introduced the bill which went through two draft revisions before it was sent to be voted on Tuesday.

For those who were present at the council room, the bill tries to redefine the traditional accessory use of entities, in particular hundreds of community and faith based institutions serving thousands of community members in the county. To many of them, the bill would lead to more conflict and friction between the county government and the these community groups and may raise more discrimination cases. The county suffered a discrimination lawsuit case very recently, costing it 3.7 million dollars. Mr. Dernoga was named in that case.

As the session started, Chairman Dernoga was given a list residents name who signed up earlier to speak. The list was rather very long – more than 70 residents chose to speak against the bill.

Then the drama began. Instead of calling the names of the residents from his list, Mr. Dernoga rather made a brief statement saying he’d like to recommit (kill) the bill. He then requested the packed crowd if they can leave the council room quietly.

I apologize for creating consternation and concerns” – said a humbled Dernoga, the bill’s prime sponsor.

The bill is now dead” – said Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills), who brought the motion to kill the bill.

Good for Mr. Dernoga, for siding with the vast number of his constituents who were present at the hearing.

Charter Amendment Dies at Council

The much discussed and debated charter amendment to lower the age for council members to 18 died at last night’s City Council session. Council members voted 6-2 opposing the proposed amendment. District 4 council member Marcus Afzali, the bill’s sponsor and District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn only voted in favor of the bill.

Before the session started at 7:00pm, council member Wojahn sent an email to his constituents announcing that he and Afzali did not want to move further with this ill-fated bill. “Essentially, we realized that the amendment is very unlikely to pass, so we’ve decided not to push it any more.  The public hearing will still go forward, because we cannot move to table the amendment until the official meeting at 8 pm.” – wrote Mr. Wojahn.

The Council was about to take another motion to raise the minimum age for council candidacy to 25. Mayor Andy Fellows broke a 4-4 tie to reject District 2 Councilman Bob Catlin’s proposal that no resident younger than 25 be allowed to run for elected office in the city.

More coverages of last night’s debate can be found here in the Diamondback and the Patch.

Ballot Questions for Nov. 2 Election

On November 2nd election, in addition to having your chance to choose a new Governor, a School Board member and other County and State wide officials, you will have the opportunity to vote to approve or disapprove 6 types of borrowing by Prince George’s county. 

Typically, the County works with an investment bank, which sells the County’s bonds to investors.

The County must have voter approval to borrow these money.  This is the way the County makes long-term investments. Here are those 6 questions. You can vote YES or NO on these ballot questions.

Question A: Public Works and Transportation Facilities (CB-49-2010)
$62,255,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of Public Works and Transportation Facilities (including roads and bridges, parking lots, and maintenance facilities).

Question B: County Building (CB-50-2010)
$25,200,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of County Buildings.

Question C: Library Facilities (CB-51-2010)
$23,606,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of Library Facilities.

Question D: Community College Facilities (CB-52-2010)
$42,227,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of Community College Facilities.

Question E: Public Safety Facilities (CB-53-2010)
$85,835,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of Public Safety Facilities (including Fire Department Facilities).

Question F: Environmental Facilities (CB-54-2010)
$28,675,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of Environmental Facilities.

The Case for an “Underage” Council Member

The last time when I wrote about the proposed changes to lower the minimum age requirement for our next council candidate, I received an email from one of my neighbors. She wrote:

The brain is not fully developed until you are 25 years old. We should move it to 25 years old not 18. Maybe this explains some of the problems with our council now. YOU THINK?

To support her claim, she also sent me a link to this WikiAnswer webpage, titled “When is a brain fully developed?

I have a lot of respect for this particular neighbor, so I decided to dig a little deeper into this interesting scientific matter. During my search, I came across this Washington Post article that relates the teen crash rate to the brain maturity.

Findings such as this aren’t above criticism. What most scientists agree is that the actual maturity of brains happens at the age of 12, and then the growth slows down heavily until the age of 25, when the brain stops developing completely.

Does it mean that we’ll be taking a risk if we consider 18 as the minimum age of our future council candidates, or as my neighbor said, even 25? As a matter of fact, the District 4 council member Marcus Afzali was elected when he was 24. I wonder if the 73% of people who voted for him knew he only had a semi developed brain because he wasn’t 25 yet?

Frankly speaking, there hasn’t been any solid study showing the risk of having an 18 year old making important decisions. Risky and stupid decisions can come from folks of all ages – be they 18 or 81. It is no wonder why so many old and so-called experienced council members lose their seats for their past acts of stupidity.

But the matter of age is only a small part of opposition against this proposed change. The bigger argument we hear is the “lack of experience”. This is based on the case that an 18 year old is too young to gather enough and necessary knowledge about the city matters.

I’m not quite convinced. Let’s get to the basics.

The tasks of a council member can be divided into two parts. The first part is about sitting in the Council Chamber every Tuesday night and voting on a slew of matters with other council members on the bench. Most of these “matters’ are fairly simple, and one does not need to be a rocket scientist to make a decision on these matters. There are a few issues that might need some studies prior to making decisions on them, but the good thing is that the City sends a packet on those matters to all council members a few days earlier of the council session, so that the members can do their homework. I think young council members would rather quite enjoy such study, which isn’t quite different from their school’s research work that they are quite used to.

The other part of the council work is about serving the constituents. These council members often get calls from the residents they serve. The subjects of these calls can be anything and everything about the neighborhood – crime, electricity, trash collection, street repair - you name it. I’d argue that if someone has the right amount of passion for doing the job, an 18-year-old can do such jobs in a more efficient and timely manner than their older counterparts. We’re talking about a generation who knows how to connect to others on a constant basis. Often times, you will actually find them to be more creative than the older generation in getting in touch with others and addressing problems.

If approved, the 18 yr old requirement won’t be the first in our area, our neighboring Greenbelt and Hyattsville also allow candidates as young as 18. There are numerous countries, such as Germany, Canada, Austria, where an 18 year old can become a candidate for any public office. 
 
I know that not all 18-year-olds will be the same and that not every one will have the same level of smartness and intelligence. But look, before the elections, they will have to come to you, they will have to knock your doors. You will then have plenty of time to get to know where they stand on various city matters, about their I.Q., and yes, maybe the exact stage of their brain development.

Until then, it’s only fair to give them a chance to compete.

[The City Council will have a public hearing on this tomorrow]

Should Thirsty Turtle Be Closed For Good?

After last week’s much publicized news on the stabbing of four students at the downtown’s Thirsty Turtle bar, there have been some serious discussion on any real need to keep that “freshman bar” stay open.  

University Police Chief David Mitchell wants Thirsty Turtle shut down – for good. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “This must stop. I’m ready to padlock the Thirsty Turtle tonight.” – said Mr. David Mitchell, the University of Maryland’s police chief, commenting on that incident. Of the four victims in that incident, three were under the legal drinking age.

The bar is facing additional citations for serving alcohol to minors following Tuesday’s stabbing of four young men in College Park.

Even before the incident, the bar has a reputation of serving alcohol to underage students. In the past three years, the Thirsty Turtle has been slapped with $8,000 in fines for liquor code violations. According to the WTOP News, since receiving its liquor license in November 2007, the Thirsty Turtle has been fined twice for violations of county codes. Two other cases are pending against it.

The City Council voted earlier to write a letter in support of Mitchell’s letter to the liquor board.

The next liquor board general meeting is October 26, 2010 @ 10AM.  This is an open hearing and they have several license requests to review.  At the end – sometime around 1-2PM, Chief Inspector Norma Lindsey will present the board with information relating to the knife fight a the bar. She will also present Chief Mitchell’s letter to the Commissioners at this time.  The Commissioners will decide if there is sufficient evidence for a show cause hearing.

Got Junk? Dump ‘em Free, Today!

Today, the Publics Works Yard will be open to accept bulky trash drop-offs, electronics for recycling, and brush from residents.

Compost and wood mulch will also be available for sale.

In addition, there will be 2 donation groups present to accept clothing and household items (American Rescue Workers), and reusable or surplus building materials (Community Forklift).

Document shredding services will also be available. Residents are encouraged to bring sensitive and confidential information where they can watch it being shredded.

Hours that the yard will be open are – 7:30-11:30 am.

As always, these opportunities are open for City residents only, and proof of City residency is required to participate.

[Source CPDistrict1]

Come Learn How to Save Energy – Tomorrow

Come learn tomorrow how to cut your energy bill and thus help make College Park a more environmentally friendly community.

The Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) will be hosting an energy workshop tomorrow at the City Hall (4500 Knox Road), where Dollie Banks, PEPCO’s residential program manager, will present information about the compnay’s incentives for making homes more energy-efficient.

Also, David Brosch, home auditor for Green Homes Blue Sky, will speak about how to use a Kill-A-Watt meter, do your own home audit of electrical appliances, and the advantages of doing a full home audit. CBE has purchased four Kill-A-Watt meters for College Park residents to borrow to use in their homes. Come to the workshop to learn how to use it and sign up to borrow one.

The workshop will start at 10am and continue until 12pm. You can register the event free by emailing CPCBEworkshop@gmail.com or calling Elisa Vitale at 301-277-3445

November Election – Early Voting Starts Tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, Friday, October 22, you can cast your November Mid-term election ballots. This opportunity will end on Thursday, October 28. You cannot vote on Sunday, October 24th. 

 The nearest early voting center in our area is College Park Community Center (5051 Pierce Ave. College Park, MD. 20740). The poll center will be open from 10:00am to 8:00pm. Anyone in line by 8:00pm will be allowed to vote.

If you cannot get to the polls during early voting or on the November 2 General election final day, you can vote by mail! Just follow these easy steps:

STEP 1 – Fill out an absentee ballot aapplication absentee ballot application for 2010 elections (PDF)
STEP 2 – Submit your application by Tuesday, October 26
STEP 3 – You will receive your election ballot in the mail
STEP 4 – VOTE!
STEP 5 – Mail or hand deliver your completed ballot by Tuesday, November 2

If you hand deliver your ballot, you must deliver it to your local board of elections by 8:00 pm.

Meet the new University of Maryland President!

Wallace D. Loh
Wallace D. Loh

The next “Experience and Enjoy College Park Tour” event will take place on Thursday, November 11th at Ledo’s restaurant in downtown College Park at 7:00pm.  Please mark your calender.

The guest speaker that night will be the new president of the University of Maryland, Dr. Wallace Loh!  Improving City-University relations is a critical aspect to moving College Park forward and I’m excited that the new president of the university understands the need to meet with residents. 

For those of you who don’t know about the “Experience and Enjoy College Park (EECP) Tour”, the purpose is to get residents from across the city together once a month to promote shopping and eating locally, as well as building a sense of community where people can talk about local issues in a relaxed setting.

I’ve been to a few past EECP tours in the past (such as this and this ) and I found that these meet-up events have been a great way to connect and know your fellow residents and community leaders. I highly encourage you to come out to this event.

City Gets Speed Cameras, Finally

Watch your car’s speed next time you drive around Paint Branch Parkwy and Trolly trail.

The camera was installed last Friday, but you’d be getting a warning now for any speed violation. That will change after Nov 15, when you’ll be getting a $40 citation for each violation.

There hasn’t been any word when the north College Park will be getting speed cameras. A few locations that have been sought for cameras in the city are:

  • Rhode Island Avenue from Route 193 north to the City boundary
  • Metzerott Road within City boundaries from University Boulevard to Adelphi Road
  • Greenbelt Road from Route 1, Baltimore Avenue, to Rhode Island Avenue
  • Route 1, Baltimore Avenue, from Beechwood Road to Indian Lane
  • University Boulevard within the City boundaries from Adelphi Road to 49th Avenue

One More Citizen Armed Robbery – Could it be Stopped?

Last Saturday, at approximately 10:30 p.m., the NCP had its latest citizen armed robbery in the area of Rhode Island Avenue and Paducah Road.  According to the Police, the victim advised that he was walking home when the suspects approached him from behind.  The victim was then struck in the face with an unknown object.  The suspects then took property from the victim and fled on the area on foot towards Baltimore Avenue, making good on their escape. The suspects are described as (3) black males, 16-18 years of age, wearing a mask with dark clothing and hoodies.

Armed robberies and other violent crimes have been on the rise in the city, though number of crimes in general has gone down.

Soon after I received the news through my Nixle email alert system, I shared with a few neighbors. One neighbor got back to me with this comment:

Unfortunately the only way this sort of thing can be prevented is have the old fashion cops walking a beat. Ditto for problems in College Park and on Campus.   The police are ineffectual riding around in patrol cars. Looks like the citizens of northern college park are just not safe in their communities anymore.

This neighbor  may have  a point. But the million dollar question is how many additional police officers can we afford to put on our neighborhood streets – walking? We already have a number of county polices patrolling our streets, in addition to 3 full time and 3 part time police officers that the City hires, yet there have been concerns on the number of Police cars on our city streets. To have polices walking on our city streets would have required them to  increase the current figures even further. With the City’s and County’s budget ever shrinking, recruitment of such additional police forces are unlikely to take place – in near term.

Volunteers Spend Morning to Beautify North College Park

It was 8am yesterday at the MoM / REI  / Pizza Roma shopping parking lot. Some 20 plus volunteers gathered around a table at the east side of the lot, adjacent to Rhode Island avenue. The table was adorned with some essential stuff, black trash bags, packs of blue hand gloves and orange vests. On one side, volunteers started their morning breakfast – with bagels and creme cheese, hot coffee, juices and water.

Soon they were assigned with routes. “Let me take my troop to Narragansett PkWy area” – said Moira Mcguire. Moira is a member of the local AlHuda school community and brought her 4 children at the event. Other members spread out to cleanup two major nearby streets – Rhode Island Avenue, and Edgewood Road. Another group went inside the adjacent Hollywood Elementary school’s backyard.

At the end of they day, they collected some 20 bags of trash from these areas. The County’s Public Works came later to pick up these trash bags.

Earlier, while volunteers gathered at the table, a call came from Abdul Kader, the owner of the local Pizza store Pizza Roma. “I see volunteers at our parking lot, can I pitch in?“. And he did, with his popular pizza that volunteers enjoyed much at the end of the event.

Thanks to the CBE (Committee for a Better Environment) and the local groups such as the AlHuda School community who helped organize the event and made it a success.

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