Thursday's stabbing death of Leonard R. Smith-Matthews at Hyattsville’s University Town Center was the first homicide on record in the city this year and the 60th reported homicide in Prince George’s County for 2011.
County police and Hyattsville police were on the scene minutes after receiving the first call about a fight on the plaza in front of the Royale 13 movie theater. In homicide situations, county police take the lead while Hyattsville police—the department has not had a homicide unit for several years—serves to assist the county in their investigation.
Freshman Mayor Marc Tartaro, who took office in mid-May, said he was saddened by the death of Smith-Matthews.
“It’s a concern when something like UTC happens [last night],” Tartaro said. “It takes the wind out of the sails. It doesn’t make me feel good.”
The crime blotter put out by the Hyattsville Police Department often lists incidents of burglaries and shoplifting at the Mall at Prince George’s, which is located just west of UTC. But no crimes of this nature have been reported at the plaza where Smith-Matthews was killed.
“The perception is there are certain problems in certain pockets [of Hyattsville],” Tartaro said. “We need to look at the commercial district. We’ve got to look at everything together.”
There are 43 funded police officer positions in Hyattsville. Tartaro said there have been three or four vacancies for about a year, and while his FY 2011 budget does not require cutting any police officer spots, it also doesn’t call for any more.
“More police isn’t necessarily the answer,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to fix the problem.”