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Nixle Safety Alert System

NixleEarlier, I blogged about sites like the crimereports.com to get safety alert / notification. Here is another one – Nixle.

The good thing about Nixle is that it’s used by the PG Co police; thus in addition to the safety alerts (I’m yet to receive any) , it also sends news about the police department.

To register for the Nixle service, please go to http://local.nixle.com/register/. The registration process is simple and fast.

Police Puzzled over UMD Student’s Death

University of Maryland Police is still unsure about what caused the death of the 21 year old student Adewunmi Omisore Adepegba.

Adepegba was found unresponsive and not breathing on Field House Drive near Lot Z at about 9:45 p.m Tuesday night. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital shortly thereafter.

University Police and Prince George’s County Fire Department officials responded to the area and found Adepegba unresponsive, not breathing and without a pulse Tuesday night.

It’s rare, although not unheard of, but certainly it’s rare,” said UMD police chief David Mitchell. “We have such a young population, and you never expect that to happen. But unfortunately, it did.”

 The cause of death has yet to be determined, and officials are waiting for results from the medical examiner’s office. Bystanders performed CPR on Adepegba until paramedics took over, Brady said. He was pronounced dead at Washington Adventist Hospital at about 9:45 p.m.

In a statement, the UMD public safety department said “Our deepest sympathy is with the family of Mr. Adepegba during this time. We appreciate the community’s assistance and quick response in this sad and unfortunate occurrence.”

North College Park Hit by Double Armed Robberies

Last week, north College Park was hit by two major crime incidents.

Earlier in the week, the tobacco and pipe shop Bamboo Eater on Rhode Island Ave. (near Edgewood Rd) was robbed at the gunpoint. According to the County Police, the robbery happened at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

The suspect, described as a man in his 20s between 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds, fled on foot after collecting the cash from the employee. The suspect was wearing a gray zip-up hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, black gloves and a homemade mask of white flannel.

A man carrying a black revolver-style handgun approached the counter and demanded cash from the employee, who handed over all the money in the register — about $400, according to police.

According to this Diamondback report, this robbery is one of 50 store robberies and home invasions in the county since the beginning of this year, police said. This number is a 23 percent decrease from last year’s 63 robberies of the same nature in the same time span, according to police. In 2010, there were a total of 501 robberies akin to the incident at The Bamboo Eater on Tuesday evening.

The second armed robbery occurred on last Wednesday. At approximately 10:30 p.m., the victim was walking in the 9600 block of 51st Avenue when he was approached by two suspects. One of the suspects produced and pointed a black handgun at the victim. The victim was able to escape to a nearby residence where he notified police. The suspects fled the scene on foot. No items were stolen from the victim.

 The suspects are described as Hispanic males, approximately 30 years of age, 5’9” in height, and weighing 160 pounds. One of the suspects was last seen wearing a black jacket. The other suspect was wearing a black sweat shirt with a hood, armed with a black gun.

Serial Armed Robberies Strike North College Park

Yesterday, I received to emails from the Nixle system,  alerting us about two armed robberies in north College Park. Both robberies occurred just in 20 minutes apart.

Here is the first alert:

On December 2, 2010 at approximately 11:22 p.m. patrol officers responded to the 5000 block of Branchville Road for a call of a citizen armed robbery. When they arrived, the victim stated he was walking home when the suspects approached him from behind. One of the suspects displayed a handgun and announced a robbery. The suspects then instructed the victim to remove all his property. Fearing for his life the Victim complied. The suspects took the victim’s property and fled the area. The suspects are described as hispanic males, 5’10” in height, 160 pounds, and approximately 18-20 years of age. One of the suspects was armed with a silver handgun.

.. and here is the second one:

On December 12, 2010 at approximately 11:42 p.m., patrol officers responded to 48th Avenue and Indian Lane for the report of a citizen armed robbery. When officers arrived, contact was made with the victim who stated while he was was walking home, he was approached by two suspects. The victim stated one of the suspects displayed a silver handgun and demanded his property. Fearing for his life, the victim complied with the suspects demands. The suspects fled the scene. The suspects are described as hispanic males between the ages of of 17-25. They were last seen wearing dark clothing.

Both incidents had similar suspects (Hispanic males, ages 17-25) with silver handgun.  Looks like the guys robbed at Branchville Rd. first, then came to 48th ave. /Indian Ln. 20 minutes later.

Please see also the Gazette report here.


Armed Robbery Near Metro

Last night, at approximately 7:15 p.m., a resident was robbed as he was walking from the Greenbelt Metro Station back to his hotel located in the 9100 block of Baltimore Avenue.  The victim was approached by a masked suspect.  The suspect pointed a handgun at the victim and demanded his bag.  Fearing for his safety, the victim complied and handed his property to the suspect.  The suspect fled on 51st Avenue.

The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 18-20 years of age, 5’6″ in height, having a slim build.  He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, dark colored bandana, armed with a handgun.

Detectives are working to identify the suspect. More details can be found here.

I was coming from the Metro around that time (7:30pm?), with laptops in my backpack. 

The incident is just a reminder for us to be extra careful during this time of the year. With days getting shorter, robbers will try to take advantage of dark to attack lone riders coming from the Metro. I suggest we walk with another rider, or call someone to escort us from the Metro, especially after dark.

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.


Ask the Police Chief

Major Robert Liberati, the new PG Police Chief will be coming to Oct 14 NCPCA meeting to answer your questions. Mr. Liberati is the Chief of District 1 PG County Police that includes the City of College Park.

It’s been only a few month since Mr. Liberati has taken his office, yet he has made his name known to the City residents. One change I’ve noticed is more frequent Nixle alerts on crime incidents in and around the City. Albeit incomplete, such alert messages are the only source of immediate crime information in our area. Instant reporting of crime incidents in our city is nearly absent on sites like crimereports.com.

Mr. Liberati has shown some promises as a police chief, but can he do even better? You wouldn’t ask that question if the crime had completely died down in our city. Though total crime figures have gone down in the recent month, violent crimes, robberies, and assaults have gone up in the same period of time. What can he do to bring these dangerous crime figures down.

Another question you may want to ask is the reaction of the PG Police in our part of the City compared to that in downtown College Park. I try to follow crime trends in both north and south part of the City and from the surface, it appears that the number and of nature of crime in these two parts of the city isn’t quite different. But here is the issue; every time we have a series of crime happening in downtown, it seems that they get more attention from the Police (and the media off course). Very rarely similar series of incidents happening in the north get comparable attention from the Police. Is this a matter of perception, or is there a real discrepancy in the focus of attention between the south and the north?

These two questions are just the start; I’m sure you have other questions in your mind. Please bring those questions to our next NCPCA meeting. In case you think you cannot come to the meeting, please let me or our President Mark Shroder (email: shroder_keller@yahoo.com) know about them before the meeting. You deserve to know the answers to these questions.

Nix(le)ing Neighborhood Crime

Yesterday, I received an email from City’s public Service Dept. on the Nixle crime report system. As I blogged earlier, the  Nixle system allows residents to receive community crime alerts and public safety information as SMS or emails.

The email says that both Prince George’s County Police, and University of Maryland Department of Public Safety are now using www.Nixle.com to.

This is a great news, isn’t it? Getting to know the crime around one’s neighborhood is a good thing. It certainly helps us in staying more vigilant about the crime that goes in the neighborhood. And a constant vigilance in turn helps reduce crime as a whole.

In fact the PG police reported back late last year that they would start using Nixle for sending alerts on crime and other related info. I signed up then, but honestly speaking, I was disappointed by its service. First, there weren’t too many alerts I found  useful. Even if there were a few, they were more about public safety information, and not quite about the crime itself. The few crime info I recieved was mostly related to those happened in other part of the county. I cannot remember of any crime in my own neighborhood reported by Nixle.

I think the major problem with the service in relation to crime reporting in our area is the lack of live data feed. This is the data that goes to the Nixle server from the local police departments such as PGPD. The way currently this works is pretty much manual. We will only receive a Nixle alert when our police officers / captains manually report crime to Nixle. Our District 1 police Chief major Liberati told the other day he has used the system to report a few crime recently after he assumed his new position recently.

After using for several weeks last time, I stopped using it – the service was simply filling my inbox with information that I don’t really need. Yesterday’s announcement seems like indicating that some new changes are being introduced to the system. Or may be with a new police chief is in charge now, things will get better. With these hopes, I’ve reactivated my account again yesterday – to give Nixle another chance. We’ll see how it works this time.

Council Candidates Talk at NCP Forum

From Left: Valerie Cunningham, Sam Epps, Fred Smalls, Mary Lehman and Crystal Thomson

Some 10-12 north College Park residents gathered at Davis Hall yesterday to listen what 5 Dist. 1 County Council hopefuls to offer to make their neighborhood a better place to live. The rest of the attendees included the organizers of the event and a number of campaign workers.

Mayor Andy Fellows conducted the forum.

The candidates answered 8 questions – 2 of them were given to them before the meeting started.

Q1. Would you actively support a Community Center in Hollywood Commercial district?
Q2. What will you do to improve congestion on Rt 1 and transportation in the area?
Q3. What you’ll be doing to improve the image of the county police?
Q4. How can you enhance the economy of College Park without adding additional density?
Q5. Do you think school funding is too much, or too little . What would you do to get more funding?
Q6. What will you do to protect environment and preserve / develop green spaces?
Q7  What will be your priority of remedying the increased crime in North College Park?
Q8. What will you do to alleviate the foreclosure problem in North College Park?

Valerie  Cunningham: She will not pursue a community center at the Hollywood district – will rather pursue mixed use development like in Roslyn or Pentagon City. She would create a transportation czar who would report to the county council. Will advocate trolley system which she thinks will be less expensive. She thinks there got to be partnerships between citizens and the police. Will also work to make the police work in a safer environment.  She advocates mentoring children more at home to take load from the schools’ classrooms. Will seek more volunteers. Will work for coalition building in preserving green space. On crime, she would first look into root causes of these crimes such as gang activity etc. Will enhance the neighborhood watch programs and seek more police visibilities. She would like to coordinate various  programs in different local and Federal governments.

Sam Epps: Sam will pursue community center which he thinks will serve the seniors and children and revitalize the community development. However he would seek citizens’ input in this. On Rt. 1 development, he wants to bring businesses back so that residents can enjoy these facilities close to their homes. He would work with the state’s elected officials to get the fair share of the transportation dollars. He will also work towards more efficient WMATA and UMD for better transportation. He said the county has close to 1600 sworn police officers, but would seek more. He would seek to increase the number of classes in police academy and thus will improve the quality of fresh cadets. He would invest in training the police officers and invest in Neighborhood Watch program. On transportation, he thinks zoning is the key – will advocate mixed use zoning. He would remove duplication of services in the education services and will get fare share from the State’s budget. He will look into development that prioritizes green spaces. He will work to educate public on crimes and will engage with the Fed to educate the citizens who to call when they are in trouble with foreclosure issues.

Fred Smalls: Fred would support  a community center at Hollywood. However he wants to revitalize the commercial district. and both sides of Rhode Island Avenue. He advocates mixed use zoning in the area. He wants a transit oriented development. and will work with the SHA on the Rt 1 development. He will work with the police chief to raise the bar of Police quality. He doesn’t think additional density is not necessarily a bad thing. He however advocates smart growth in the area. On environment, he wants to see pocket parks and will buy properties to use them as green spaces. On crime, he would collaborate between different police departments in the area and will seek community involvement. He would seek to strengthen Neighborhood Watch program. He will work to offer residents education and support on foreclosure issues.

Mary  Lehman: Mary would support a mixed use facility at the Hollywood Commercial district. She wants to have a satellite type city facilities in the district and also would like to see revitalization with businesses such as a commercial bank. She like to have a nice entryway to the neighborhood on both ends of Rhode Island Avenue. She will work with Police Sheriff to improve the image of the County’s Police force. She would also work with the state rep on Rt.1 transportation.  She would expand shuttle services similar to what UMd currently has. She would also advocate bike sharing program, satellite Parking. She said she is strong proponent of mixed use and transit oriented development. She would revitalize local Metro stations to create more jobs. On education, she mentioned she is the only candidate with children going to the county schools. She said she worked with the current Co. Council candidate Tom Dernoga for 4 years on local school systems. She said PG currently spends the lowest dollars on in-class instructional programs. 60% of its expenses are spent out side of the class room. She said she would oppose land in-fill developments with negative impact on the community – such as developments with no side walks etc. On crime, she said the County currently has only 1450 uniformed polices; she would seek that number to go up to 1800. She would also work to reduce dependencies on contract police which currently supplement the county police. She would work to have Nixle service sending crime alerts on local crimes. She said sites like the crimereports.com will be listing local crimes from next month. She will seek direct intervention from the banks in support of residents struggling with foreclosure problem.

Crystal Thompson: Ms. Thompson advocates a separate budget from that of PG MNCPPC budget on local development. She advocates better public transportation from Laurel to Metro to alleviate clogging on Route 1. She would also seek shopping areas along Rt.1 so that residents don’t have to drive a long distance. She wants school buses to run along route 1 during lunch hour to alleviate the traffic. On crime, she wants more education related classes for children and residents. She would stop furlough of police departments. On local economy, she will advocate remote working, so that no more additional density is added to the community. On education, she would seek a complete audit on the expenses in county schools. She’d ask for more funding for school programs including lunches etc. On environment, she wants smart development – she commented that  the county has a lot of lease space , but that needs to be used wisely. On crime, she will find more money to pay additional police officers. She advocates having bicycle cops in the neighborhoods. On foreclosure, she said she actually recently went through the issue herself. She will seek a czar serving a single point of contacts and will help introduce a free number for the residents seeking help. Finally, Ms. Thompson wants to build the local economy through building Eco-manufacturing, a community Healthcare campus, eTextbooks, etc. versus more shopping except to fix laurel mall and main street.

Mapping Crimes in the Neighborhood

When it comes to mapping crime in the neighborhood, the sources are many. We have PG county police department’s C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team) reports that you can see on NCPCA’s monthly meeting minutes. There are also monthly reports from PG contract police who serves our city. Thanks to Patrick and Afzali for putting up the reports on their sites on a regular basis. You can also get reports from other police departments operating in our neighborhood on websites like crimereports.com and Nixle crime alert system. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the crimes reported on these sites are not quite complete. Then you get the news on crimes from your neighbors, some reported but not published anywhere on the above mentioned sources. Part of the reason many crimes are not reported in details is because of ongoing investigations on these crimes.