Poll Results: 85% Support the Return of Vice Squads despite Council Member’s Opposition – Mayor to “Outline Agenda to Fight Crime” later this morning


Though the Ward 1 Council Member has written: “I do not think they help us achieve the long term, sustained outcome we truly want for the District.”, yesterday’s poll results are in with 85% supporting, what the police union has requested, the return of vice squads.

The Mayor will release her “Agenda to Fight Crime” later this morning:

“On Thursday, August 27 at 10:30 a.m., Mayor Muriel Bowser will provide remarks on her fall public safety agenda at the former Malcolm X Elementary School, at 1351 Alabama Avenue, SE.

At the event, Mayor Bowser will outline legislative proposals that will help prevent and address violent crime in the District.”

Stand by for updates.

66 Comment

  • Too bad DC’s beloved Police Chief Lanier, who has presided over 8 years of increasing crime, has not proposed any preventative measures other than silly neighborhood tents and the occasional “all hands on deck” after the fact.

    It’s time for Lanier to go.

    • You know, people were perfectly happy with Chief Lanier while crime was dropping. If there’s a variable here, it’s Mayor Bowser. But the truth is, there’s no simple answer to the crime spike. It’s not the fault of any one person. So call for Lanier’s head on a silver platter if you like, but I suspect that firing her won’t solve anything.

    • Crime was falling until this year. So its presiding over 7 years of falling crime and 1 year of rising crime.

    • In Petworth I can say they have addressed gun violence around the Soldiers Home area by changing patrols, moving more officers to bike/segway routes. Hasn’t ended all shootings but it has been down drastically since about April. I can’t speak for other neighborhoods but they implemented something there and it is working.

  • Mayor & Council: We want results. I want to see some actual arrests and I’m not just talking about violent crime. I’ve heard one too many elected officials promise action at community meetings which ultimately achieved little other than quieting the public for a few weeks.

  • How can we have meaningful poll when all we seem to have is rumor and hearsay and anonymous blog comments regarding what the vice squads actually do, their tactics, and the reasons for their disbanding?
    More information would be good. And a more nuanced discussion of what are good ways to organize squads than “vice squads (no explanation provided): yea, or nay.”

    • You know, I really think it is the job of the mayor, the chief and the city council to lead that discussion. Part of the reason we are relying on rumor and hearsay is because the city leadership has done an abysmal job of getting on top of the problem and shaping the conversation. Their response gave the impression that they were caught completely off guard by the problem and tried to ignore it. When you have city leaders ignoring gun violence, but you can hear actual gunfire out your window, citizens start to write their own narratives.

      • I agree. This is a major failing of this administration. And you are correct that people will write their own scenarios. But it is frustrating to see people irately DEMANDING something that may or may not be good public policy. All of that is a stew for bad policy-making.

    • What kills me is those on here on here that says the Vice squad were not jump boys. That’s all I’ve ever known them to be, is jump out boys. People mentioned they know the neighborhood etc– well duh- they’ve jumped out on the corner boys over and over so of course they know who’s who. Again- most of the commenters on here will never experience what if feels like to be harassed in your own neighborhoods by the police. They want to sacrifice others freedoms, just to have a sense of safety.

      • Accountering

        Yes, I am fine sacrificing a little bit of the drug dealers freedoms hanging out on the street corner, if it means that there will be less murders and shootings as a result.
        I have been exposed to what you are talking about (not personally, but have heard friends stories and such) but I do think a balance can be found that preserves liberties, but still allows police to bust bad actors. I am completely unwilling to just throw my hands up in the air and give in, for the sake of letting drug dealers on the corner operate in complete freedom, and not feel “harassed.” Sorry, but im not sorry.
        RE: “Jump out boys” I do think that is part of it. If you are going to make a targetted arrest, the element of surprise is probably a good thing.

        • But that’s the thing- it’s not just the corner boys being targeted. It’s a lot of upstanding, straight laced citizens that are harassed as well. Which just means the police needs to do better investigative work- and NOT just count on luck/chance that a person may have drugs or a gun on them based on their skin color. I’d prefer them to hire more officers, and have them assigned to a certain block radius where, response them would be quick and you’d basically have a dragnet if someone was trying to escape. The areas that their aren’t physical bodies patrolling, I’d have cameras installed.

          • Accountering

            I agree with all of the above. Without exception, I agree 100%. My understanding of VICE is that they ARE doing the things you are talking about. Getting out and investigating, and figuring out who has guns and drugs due to evidence, and not just skin color. I agree, we should not just be rolling up on 5 guys hanging out chatting, but if three neighbors on the street complain about a specific dude who they always see doing handoffs and one time they saw a knife, then yes, the police SHOULD roll up on THAT guy.

          • Accountering, I’m the other lower-case ‘a’ anonymous posting. (Clarifying to avoid confusion, not because I disagree with the other one.)
            What is the basis for “[your] understanding of VICE is…”? There seems to be an idea of what the vice squads are and do coalescing in the comments here, but I’m not sure what that’s based on. If it’s other comments, I’d just point out some dude above is talking about Lanier presiding over “eight years of increasing crime.”

          • Isn’t that tossing the baby out with the bathwater? Obviously, nobody supports racial profiling or police randomly stopping black men to see if they have drugs or a weapon. But, it doesn’t seem there is inherently anything wrong with undercover policing, surveillance and even police stops based on well supported probable cause.

          • tom–which is why I started this thread by saying we need more information/discussion “regarding what the vice squads actually do, their tactics, and the reasons for their disbanding.” We should be discussing what would be a good policy. Not simply “keep things centralized” vs. “bring back the vice squads as they were” (neither of which things most commenters have much actual information about as opposed to I-know-it-all-I-read-it-on-a-blog-speculation).

      • Yeah because what really matters in all of this isn’t the rash of homicides and violent crime that is occurring in our neighborhoods not just between warring gangs but to completely random people (the Shaw shooting and most recently this http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/texas-man-dies-after-being-assaulted-in-northwest-washington/2015/08/24/7bd3d9e0-4ab5-11e5-8e7d-9c033e6745d8_story.html) is the freedoms of “corner boys” who illicitly break the law on a regular basis with no fear of any sort of consequences.

        Give me a break- as a law abiding citizen I should have a sense of safety while these criminals,who make the lives of everybody around them terrible, should be detained. Police should be allowed to police, period.

        • yeah be that simple minded if you think I’m only referring to the corner boys being harassed. Yup- because I approve of them selling drugs and shooting at each other. There are tons of other law abiding citizens that are harassed by these cops- but I’m sure you don’t have the physical characteristics of many of them- so you wouldn’t be affected.

          • Accountering

            You are not reading what anyone here is saying… I agree, we should not be patting down random black guys walking down the street. But when they investigate, and have some credible proof that someone has a gun or whatever, then there should be a conversation/pat down. The guys doing that small scale investigation, are no more as they have been reassigned.

          • I think you are both talking past each other–based on having different understandings about how vice squads operated in the past. Accountering, what you just said sounds reasonable. What anonymous originally said is that that’s not how vice squads actually worked.

          • I understand “how they should work”- but that is not how they have operated in the past- hence to me keep saying law abiding citizens being harassed by the cops just for looking a certain way. If that didn’t happened- there would be no reason for me to bring it up. Be we all know- that’s how they operated- and great if they got lucky and found a weapon or drugs- but Oopps sorry for just harassing a law abiding citizen.

          • Accountering

            So lets fix how they work. I am 100% on board. What I am not on board with is just cancelling an effective program that has issues. Fix the issues, don’t just give the criminals carte blanche.

  • As a neighbor I support the reinstatement of the vice squads. As a statistician I think it’s only fair to point out that the sample here is completely unrepresentative.

    • Indeed. Just a guess, but this sample is almost certainly skewed to upper middle class white DC residents (who probably could vote multiple times, no?)

      • It’s definitely skewed… but it’s still something that Councilmember Nadeau should pay attention to. Even if it’s a minority of her constituents who feel this way, a vocal minority that’s composed of likely voters is not to be dismissed.

        • Why? It’s an unscientific poll, open to anyone who wants to click, and easy to game and vote multiple times. Why pay any attention to it at all?
          The commenters on this blog are not representative of the electorate as a whole. The commenters on this blog generally don’t know how the police currently work, what the best way to do the job is, or what exactly it means to bring back the vice squads. So why should Nadeau, or Bowser, or Lanier, or anyone take advice from an ill-informed noisy minority?
          I don’t mean to single you out, because I think you are much better informed than most here, and I respect your opinion, but the rhetoric on this site has been getting more shrill and less thoughtful all summer.

  • The vice squads were the district-based plain-clothes units. Without these squads, my understanding is that you have zero locally-based plain-clothes officers doing proactive investigation in your neighborhood. You now have officers in uniform only, patrolling/responding only. I find that deeply disconcerting. One reason we don’t have so many open air markets anymore is because vice squads made that kind of thing high-risk. That doesn’t mean that if you take away these units that the drug markets and territory disputes stay gone — they don’t. Less drug markets and less arrests is a sign of vice squad strategy successes, not a reason to re-task those units to patrol…

    • My understanding from CAC and PSA meetings is that the new centralized unit is intended to be operable in any district and can move more resources in than previously available with a vice squad. My understanding was they were still patrolling and responding in a statefarm-esque khakis and polo uniform. Could be wrong in understanding that. I don’t know enough, but glad if someone else can point me to info, if it is a similar number of officers just centralized instead of distributed?

      • Yes, that is my understanding as well. However, (1) staffing for the centralized unit is lower (most members of prior vice units were re-tasked to patrol), and (2) the centralized unit is not a squad tasked your neighborhood on a day-to-day basis, which I think makes a real difference.

  • If PoPville had its way, Tommy Wells would be mayor right now, and if not Wells then Catania, all of which shows that the opinions on this blog don’t reflect the city at large. And, the poll was hardly scientific. I’m sure the Mayor will take it with a grain of salt.

    • Accountering

      I honestly don’t think any educated person would honestly argue at this point that the city would not be in a better place with Wells or Catania at the helm. Is there anyone out there who consciously took a good/unbiased look at the candidates, preferred Bowser, who still feels that was a good choice?

  • Honest question: What if the recent spate of violence is merely a statistical anomaly? We’re seeing a spike, sure, but that’s how things like this work. Perhaps we’re just regressing to the mean. Maybe there’s really no one to blame here — nothing that could have reasonably been done to stop it. The public is notorious for overreacting to small sample sizes and that’s what this kind of looks like. It’d be nice to take some reasonable measures to toughen up against crime but it’s irrational for everyone to lose their mind over what could just be an unfortunate trend.

  • Let’s be prepared for riots if vice does comes back and a police shooting does happen where an unarmed individual gets killed. This is the inherent risk that we are signing up for.

    After giving it some thought, would a riot even work in DC? In a post 9-11/DHS world, how much firepower would rain down on any potential riots? Would the feds even care to react to a volatile scenario in Columbia Heights or Shaw? Probably not.

    • Accountering

      My understanding is that relations between the community and police in DC is significantly better than in other cities. Due to our more appropriate policing, as well as restraint showed by our officers. We just had an officer shooting, and I would say most everyone who saw the video (black or white) would say that the officer showed a tremendous amount of restraint, both in delaying his shoot, and not shooting to kill. In addition, our police force demographics very closely matches that of the city, something that is not remotely true in places like Ferguson.

  • The vice units were removed because they seemed too aggressive. Our AG doesn’t prosecute because the prison cycle is too destructive to criminals’ lives/futures. I get it– we don’t want a police state or a prison state.
    However, people need to realize that criminals don’t respond to warm and fuzzy police. They are deviants who will take whatever they can get. If we take unmarked vice units off the streets, the criminals get a headsup whenever the blue-lit cops are arriving. I could run down any street in DC with a machete and be 100% confident there weren’t cops around if I didn’t see a blue light. Undercover cops serve a purpose. Crime fighting isn’t pretty. We need to be TOUGH ON CRIME and TOUGH ON CRIMINALS. Our current culture of cop-hate and treating criminals like victims of their circumstances is not working. I’m tired of our government being so forgiving and accepting of criminal behavior.

    • What makes you think that our new AG is prosecuting fewer suspects than previous AGs?

      • The AG doesn’t prosecute anyone in DC (the US Attorney does) so my guess is the 0 prosecutions number is fairly constant.

        • Whether fewer or greater criminals are being prosecuted now than by the previous office is irrelevant. Whether the AG is actually filing the charges or if he’s directing the office to is irrelevant. Focus on the content of what I stated, not the words. Too many people get caught up picking apart every little thing which distracts them from the greater meaning/picture.

  • It’s rather irresponsible of Popville to suggest that this online “poll” has any sort of legitimacy at all. It’s a self-selected group of respondents and most people in DC don’t actually know what “vice squads” are.

    Journalistically, this is garbage.

    • Accountering

      The good news is, POPVille is a forum, and not a professional news source, so isn’t held to the same standards that someone like WAPO would be. But lets be honest, WAPO puts out questionable info such as this all the time.

      • It is not just a forum; it’s a local news source.

        And to your other point, you will never see WaPo use a headline about poll result that was simply a online survey. It just wouldn’t happen. Ever.

          • A properly determined random sample doesn’t have to be huge to be statistically sound.

          • You realize there is a difference between a professional poll (which is well-stratified, and random) with results that are posted online (such as the WaPo poll you posted) and an online poll, right? The former contacts people randomly and asks for their opinion. The latter allows people to show up. The latter reflects the demographics of the subscribers of a particular website. The former does not.

          • Do you seriously not understand the difference between what I was referring to and the kind of poll that that WaPo article is about? You really think you just had a gotcha moment, don’t you. Wow.

            Online polls (such as Popville’s) don’t have ANY statistical validity. That is completely different from a Monmouth University Polling Institute poll. This needs saying? And textdoc, my comments had nothing to do with the sample size. That shouldn’t require saying, either.

          • textdoc, my apologies. I now realize you were responding to “:)” not me.

          • I fully understand the difference in the two polls (and yea the number of participants is not that important… I found the some of the deeper numbers on the diversity of the group more interesting, but was lazy and did not include more info, and frankly it may also not be that important). Not picking on the Post, you see headlines based on polls everywhere, I just think that a lot of times even if the poll was conducted properly, are the results REALLY that meaningful? I tend to think not. You may disagree. Here’s another post article that I think explains my thoughts better than I can:

  • Yeah, PoP readership isn’t representative of DC. But, just because a group of predominantly young, left of center, white professionals support something doesn’t mean the rest of the city opposes it. It would be interesting to see what the debate on vice squads and quality of life enforcement looks like east of the river.

    Vice squads and broken windows enforcement is often viewed through a racial lens. But, it’s not that simple. Chief Lanier pointed out, “In Ward 8, people ask me why their kids have to walk through lines of adults smoking marijuana,” Lanier said. “They say, ‘I bet you wouldn’t allow that in Ward 3.’ ” Conversely, probably most whites/Asians in DC oppose stop and frisk and militarized policing.

  • This is not a citywide poll. I wonder if the majority of law abiding DC residents feel the same?

  • I would be horrified if VICE returned.

    Even without vice, the profiling that is done by the general public is bad enough. I have a few family members working for the MPD and I’ve heard many stories of neighbors calling the police on young men because they are sitting outside of their own houses on a hot summer evening. Nevermind that a lot of homes do not have central AC and people like to sit outside as it cools off to chat with friends and neighbors.

    My aunt specifically told me that she often asks why the caller thought there was illegal activity and most of the time, it’s just that the callers don’t like seeing young Black men outside in their neighborhoods. My aunt sometimes takes the time to explain to complaining neighbors that it’s customary for people to sit on their porches or front yards on nice evenings to socialize and it is not illegal for people to sit on their own property.

    My family members represent a small sample of the police force, but the incentives to have high arrest numbers combined with a vice squad would do more harm to innocent young men than it would help to stem the violence in our city.

    • Oh you wont get any sympathizers here on th is blog, but they know that racial profiling is a real thing, because it provides a sense of safety. Their beliefs are if you don’t have anything to hide, it shouldn’t matter if the police decides to jump out and question/detain/search these guys.

    • Alycia, thank you for taking the time to tell us about your family’s experiences with this kind of racial profiling. I don’t feel like I know enough to make an informed opinion about the vice squads, but I don’t know that anyone on PoPville would disagree that there needs to be a fundamental change in the way many whites view people of color in this city (and country).
      (I disagree with anonymous in this regard — just because certain individuals on PoPville want vice squads to return doesn’t make those individuals inherently racist. It seems that we’ve also left other people of color, including hispanics and asians who I’ve seen being arrested, completely out of all of the discussions I’ve read on this topic. I’d be interested to hear how these vice squads have affected those young men in the past.)

  • Why does every post about this refer to “the Council Member” or the “Ward 1 Council Member” without every including this mysterious public servant’s name, instead of just saying Council Member Nadeau?

  • Not only did the Chief & Mayor get rid of District Vice, they also neutered the District Street Crimes units city wide. We reap what we sow…..

Comments are closed.