Hyattsville experienced a jump in thefts the first two months this year, but Police Chief Douglas Holland said recent police work should bring that number down.
“It’s certainly an uncomfortable increase to start the year with,” Holland said during a community meeting attended by about 20 people at First United Methodist Church on March 11.
The number of thefts occurring from January to February increased from 108 in 2013 to 160 in 2014, according to police statistics, and the number of robberies doubled from eight to 16.
Det. Cinama Smithers, with the HPD Criminal Investigations section, said a group of teens, ages 14 to 19, appear to have been responsible for many of the robberies and thefts at the start of 2014.
Many of the incidents took place around the Zip In gas station near the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station and The Mall at Prince Georges.
Smithers said four individuals were arrested and others have since left the area after being evicted from their city apartment.
“We still have some ongoing investigations, but we think they have mostly moved out of the area,” Smithers said.
City Councilwoman Shani Warner (Ward 2), who is also co-captain of the Ward 2 Neighborhood Watch, said the spike is concerning.
“We’ve had such a long-term trend downward that whenever the number suddenly jumps, it is cause for concern,” Warner said.
While it appears that much of the crime around the mall has been addressed, Warner said she is still concerned about the number of thefts from vehicles that have taken place.
Holland said the March numbers seem to be more on par with last year.
“It’s just one example of how a small group can just wreak havoc on folks,” Holland said.
Overall, crime decreased seven percent in Hyattsville last year, from 1,365 crimes in 2012 to 1,269 crimes in 2013.
Countywide, the crime rate dropped 12 percent in 2013, according to Prince George’s County Police Department statistics.
Thefts, including automobile thefts, and robberies were at a five-year low in 2013.
A 2011 homicide has been the only one in the city in five years, Holland said.
Holland attributed the city’s decrease to a number of factors, including the officers, strong working relationships with other departments and community involvement.
“The community is a huge factor, by being a participant in keeping our city safer, by seeing something suspicious and giving us a call, by getting involved in Neighborhood Watch programs,” Holland said. “We have a very, very active Neighborhood Watch.”
Holland said that every 24 hours, the city’s crime data is uploaded to the website www.crimereports.com, which is accessible to the public.
Hyattsville resident Shane Perry said he came to the community meeting to learn more about crime in Hyattsville.
“We have had a pretty persistent problem with drugs, but that’s been going on for years. The police seem to have a pretty good lid on it now, so we’re just keeping vigilant,” Perry said.