Residents and officials in southern Prince George's County hope a new police station and redrawn police district lines will help lower emergency response times in the area, which have lagged behind other parts of the county.
A new $11 million police station in Fort Washington, where county officials broke ground on the project Friday morning, is expected to be complete in the spring of 2014. Once open, the station will serve as headquarters for the new police District 7, designed to help reduce the size of Districts 4 and 5, which now cover the southern areas of Prince George's County.
Officer response times in those districts are the slowest in the county. It takes an officer 5.8 minutes to get to the scene of a priority incident in District 4 and 7.66 minutes in District 5, according to police reports of average officer response times in 2012.
|The average amount of time it takes for Prince George's police officers to respond to priority emergency calls in 2012, to date:|
Police response times to priority calls in District 1, which borders D.C. and Montgomery County in northern Prince George's, take 4.2 minutes, the fastest time in the county.
A combined 249 square miles of Prince George's is simply too large an area to police with two districts, according to Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Accokeek.
"In Fort Washington and Accokeek and even in south Clinton, you really see the effects of the large geography that police District 4 and District 5 are sharing," Franklin said.
Deputy Chief Henry Stawinski has been studying ways to improve the department's organizational structure for years, he said. But past budget and staffing issues prevented the department from expanding and building the long-planned new station, according to Richard Krueger, chairman of the Broad Creek Historic District Advisory Committee.
Adding a District 7 station will cut District 4 in half and shave more than 30 square miles from District 5. Police also designed the new district to accommodate parts of the county expected to see a population boom in the next several years by analyzing census data, Stawinski said.
And a Fort Washington station will better serve the more rural southern portions of the county, which have long had to share patrols with more dense Prince George's neighborhoods bordering D.C., according to Krueger.
"The northern part of District 4 is a heavy crime area, so the density of patrols is probably at least five times what it is in the south," Krueger said. "This will clearly change that balance."