The pace of homicides in Prince George's County is slowing, and police say that is a direct result of the influx of patrols into high-crime neighborhoods and help from the feds. The end of January will close a deadly month for the county, with 16 homicides reported. While there were almost daily killings in the first two weeks of the year, only two homicides occurred in the county last week. "We've obviously done some things to reduce the rate, and I think that's worked," said Deputy Police Chief Gary Cunningham during an interview at police headquarters.

The last killing was early Saturday morning, when 24-year-old Brandon Earl Baswell, of D.C., was shot dead outside Plaza 23, a Temple Hills nightclub.

Cunningham said investigators are benefiting from the decrease by having more time to work on cold cases. Police have made eight arrests and closed five cases relating to the year's homicides.

The latest arrest is of a 16-year-old from Hyattsville who confessed to stabbing a man to death in Langley Park on Jan. 8. Authorities said Oscar Eduardo Rosales-Madrid is charged with first- and second-degree murder as an adult in the death of 30-year-old Alejandro Marcos Diaz Vasquez on University Boulevard.

"It's still not clear what the motive is in this case," explained Cunningham, who said detectives are unsure of the relationship between the victim and suspect. Rosales-Madrid, he said, is "giving conflicting stories."

In a rare move, the county responded to the homicide spike by embedding federal agents in its homicide divisions. Cunningham said agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration are still assisting county police.

County officials have turned to churches to encourage residents to cooperate with police, looking for moral support as they fight cultural attitudes against "snitching" on those who have committed violent acts.

"It has slowed down," said Zalee Harris, a Temple Hills resident. "But we have some root causes we have to deal with that I don't think the police or county can do without divine intervention."

Concerns have also been raised about what will happen when the stepped-up police efforts are stopped. But Cunningham says Police Chief Mark Magaw plans to do a review at the end of the month to "look at what we've done, look at how effective it's been," and then "look at the way to maintain this effort over a long period of time without draining all our resources."

Magaw recently told the County Council that he'd like to grow the department from just more than 1,500 officers to 2,000 officers.