Baker plan aims to ‘bring our neighborhoods back’ -- Gazette.Net







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Six Prince George’s County communities will get some extra attention from the county government, as officials believe assisting the areas will help cut down on crime and improve economic development.

“We are going be more proactive instead of reactive,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker’s III (D) said Wednesday during the announcement of his Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative. “We are going to bring everything we have to bear on our problems to create solutions for us all.”

Under the initiative, six department leaders in Baker’s administration will lead TNI teams in the six areas — East Riverdale/Bladensburg, Glassmanor, Hillcrest Heights/Marlow Heights, Kentland/Palmer Park, Langley Park and Suitland/Coral Hills — and work collaboratively with community members to familiarize themselves with problems and work to address them.

Baker presented the program, which he said would provide a holistic approach utilizing county services such as the police and fire departments, sheriff’s department, state’s attorney’s office and economic development department to aid some of the county’s most vulnerable communities, at Glassmanor Elementary School in Oxon Hill.

Baker’s staff looked at crime statistics from a concentrated 2011 summer crime prevention initiative and found that many of the perpetrators were coming from the targeted areas, said Baker’s communications manager, Barry Hudson.

“These areas were selected based on crime, school statistics, health-care disparity and location to Metro, among other criteria,” Hudson said. “We wanted to come up some ways to revitalize these areas and bring our neighborhoods back.”

County Chief Administrative Officer Bradford L. Seamon said program costs would be determined after department leaders met with community members, which would be completed by the end of May. TNI funding will be reallocated from other programs, he said.

“This is about getting more efficient and getting more productivity,” Seamon said.

The ultimate success of the initiative lies in reducing the number of high crime incidents in the areas, Seamon said, but in the interim some benefits can be more readily identified, such as addressing code violations.

“It could be done by identifying 100 potholes that need to be filled, replacing empty storefronts with new businesses, hosting job fairs and reducing pedestrian fatalities,” he said. “Those will be our indicators of success and making the changes to the community.”

Seamon said department officials are aware of the communities’ various leaders and have already begun scheduling meetings to learn their concerns and discuss possible solutions.

David Iannucci, the county’s assistant deputy chief administrative officer and the team leader for the East Riverdale/Bladensburg district, said every member of his 20-person group is looking forward to the challenge of enhancing the community.

“I’m seeing a lot of energy from the various departments as this allows them to work in a collaborative manner for immediate results, which is something you don’t always see,” Iannucci said. “It’s a daunting endeavor. I’ve got a lot to learn, but we’re excited.”

Iannucci said his group will have a bus tour of the area next week and will hold its first town hall meeting May 1 at the Emerson House in Bladensburg.

“We want to absorb and listen to what we can,” he said. “This is not about us telling the community what they need, but hearing from them what they need.”

Prince George’s County Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he was excited about TNI’s potential for aiding the county’s educational system.

“When you put all the resources of the county to the community level, it can only help benefit the schools,” Hite said. “With these efforts in place, we’ll be better able to educate.”

Baker said TNI is not a short-term fix, but a continual aspect of his administration.

“This is just the beginning,” Baker said. “This is not an initiative for this week, for this month or for the next year, but this is an initiative that will continue through the course of this administration, and we are going to make a difference.”