An Intelligent Discussion on “Gun Violence in Columbia Heights” between a Resident and the MPD Chief

by Prince Of Petworth August 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm 67 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user MrTinDC

A very honest, interesting, respectful and lengthy email exchange between a resident and MPD Chief Lanier, in which I was included:

“Chief Lanier,

I am a 25+ year resident of DC and currently live at the intersection of Sherman and Morton in Columbia Heights. I greatly respect the job you’ve done as Chief and am someone you could normally count on as a strong supporter. It is with regret that today I’m emailing you to express my strong dissatisfaction with the current state of the response to the uptick in violence in the city both from MPD and from the Mayor’s office. For months, I’ve been attending various meetings with the 3rd and 4th district leadership, following the statements of the agencies involved and privately and extensively canvassing line police officers across the city (nb: I have not spoken with any union officials). Here is what I’ve been told so far –


Reasons for the violence I’ve heard from official sources:

1. Synthetic drugs.

2. Local beefs.

3. Turf battles .

4. High capacity magazines.

5. Repeat offenders.

Evidence provided:

1. None.


Reasons for the violence I’ve heard from line officers:

1. The centralization of the vice squad

2. Beefs and fights over revitalized drug markets due to lessened enforcement.

3. Market reaction to legalization of marijuana.

Evidence provided:

1. Geographic concentration of much of the violence.

2. Obvious and clear drug markets where they had attenuated (i.e. Georgia and Lamont).

3. Increased evidence of heroin sales (needles in alleys, et cetera).


Reasons for the vice squad reorganization I’ve received various stakeholders:

1. Response to staffing level problems.

2. A way for the new vice squad commander to put their stamp on the unit.

3. Political (although nobody can or will say what the political calculation was).

4. An operational secret that the public has no right to know (seriously).

Evidence provided:

1. None.


I am sending you this information because it is quite clear that your line officers do not support the changes that have been made to the vice squad despite the fact that most I spoke with expressed quite positive sentiments about you and your management generally. In addition, virtually every officer I spoke with says that they were never given a believable official reason for the change. It is quite clear that the muddled statements made to the public about the probable causes of the recent violence extends to communications within the department. To restate, the line officers I have spoken to don’t believe in the reorganization, haven’t been given a clear understanding of why it was done and don’t think it’s working. I don’t think I need to tell you why that is an enormous obstacle to dealing with the current level of violence.

These issues have been exacerbated by the extremely ham handed response from the Mayor’s office and the DC Council. With almost insulting condescension, I have been told in meetings with city officials that the ‘scoobie snack’ sticker program will help the problem on Georgia Avenue, that we should ‘work the stat system’ by calling 911 at every moment of unease and that greater demands will be placed on already clearly overstretched local PSA’s. The greatest irony of the situation is that the people who have the least ability to make any changes or access to additional resources…your line officers and PSA leadership…are put in the position of defending policies they didn’t establish and often have been given no reason to believe in.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this email. I hope the perspective provided is useful to your efforts to come up with a better approach to the issue. Thank you.”

Chief Lanier replies:

“I appreciate your support for police, especially our officers on the street, and your willingness and effort to ask questions and try to find answers. You are the kind of partner we need. In return, I’d like to provide some of the information that I can.

In the beginning of August, I hosted a violent crime summit for Major City Police Chiefs and prosecutors from about three dozen major cities across the United States to discuss the dramatic surge in violence we are seeing. One thing was very clear; most major cities in the country are experience similar problems with violent crime. Although we don’t know all the reasons why, I do know that none of these cities are dealing with the legalization of marijuana. Nor have they necessarily had any significant new strategies or reorganizations. What do the cities have in common?

• Based on the survey from Major Cities Chiefs, 3 out of 4 cities have seen increases in homicides this year and about 60% have seen an increase in non-fatal shootings.

• In D.C., we had an increase in homicides while the number of non-fatal shootings were down. Clearly the shootings have been more lethal this year. Like D.C., almost half of the cities reported scenes with casings from multiple guns involved in the shootout and high capacity magazines. As you can imagine, the more bullets that are being recklessly fired greatly increases the shooters chance of hitting their target or an innocent bystander.

• Almost half report an increase in gang-related and retaliatory violence. As one of my colleagues said, homicide has become a means for dispute resolution among the criminally involved.

• We are seeing an increasing number of repeat violent offenders involved in our shootings and homicides. As of August 3, 2015:

o At least 16 of our homicide arrestees, and 17 of our homicide victims, were under supervision, pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the crime.

o This year alone, 10 individuals involved in our homicides had prior homicide charges.

o Almost half, or 44% of the defendants had prior gun-related arrest in DC, compared to 27% in 2014. Almost half of the persons responsible for these homicides had previously been arrested for carrying or using illegal guns in the commission of a crime.

Release of Repeat Violent Offenders

At a time when there is growing consensus about the need to modernize the criminal justice system-from policing, thru sentencing, to incarceration-we cannot forget that our communities need to be protected from violent offenders.

Judges and parole boards making decisions to release offenders to the community must seriously consider the person’s criminal history and determine whether there is a history of violence that will put community members at risk if released to community supervision programs.

Synthetic Drugs

You have asked for evidence that synthetic drugs are having an impact on our community violence. In a survey completed in late July, 30% of the major cities that responded reported an increase in violent crime in which the offender is under the influence of synthetic drugs.

Often referred to as synthetic marijuana, this drug is not at all like marijuana and the effects are very different. People under the influence of this drug can have super human power, be effected by excited delirium, and have a reaction very similar to PCP. This is a very dangerous drug and if it is not addressed federally we will have a public health crisis on our hands as its use expands.

I know that the D.C. Police Union (FOP) initially said that synthetic drugs were not a problem; but you may have noticed, they have since backed off of this position. This is for two reasons; many other cities are now speaking out about the violence associated with this drug and we are finally able to begin reporting some data. In June of this year, the DCFEMS transported almost 450 patients to local hospitals suffering from overdoses on synthetic drugs. In July, one of the federal supervision agencies, tested 136 individuals arrested for violent crimes, and found that 20% were positive for synthetics, including 44% of those arrested for Assault on a Police Officer and 36% of those arrested for armed robbery. Synthetic drugs have now replaced cocaine as the most commonly found in the tests of arrestees besides marijuana.

Why has this catapulted to the top of the list? Because there are no requirements for its inclusion in universal drug screenings; therefore, people don’t need to worry about losing a job or being returned to jail if their conditions of release prohibit drug use. That is why the Major Cities Chiefs recommended that this type of drug screening be mandatory of everyone under supervision in our communities.

As for the allegation that the centralization of the drug units has led to the increase in violence; there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that. The spike in homicides this year began in March. The vice units were not centralized until June 16th. The bottom line is that the vice units had simply ceased to be as effective as they once were, largely because of the changes in criminal enterprises and changes in the drug markets that made our tactics obsolete. The productivity of the vice units has dropped dramatically over the years. For example, when looking at the first four months of 2015 compared to 2014, non-marijuana drug arrests had decreased 31 percent – this is five months before we centralized our enforcement strategy. Search warrants and gun recoveries in these units were also declining. This statistic was a telltale sign that our strategy designed to fight drug markets in a different era wasn’t working anymore. We had to change our tactics and adjust our focus.

Since we have centralized our narcotics and violent crime units under the Narcotic and Special Investigations Division on June 16, 2015, there have been over 550 drug arrests citywide for and this does not include ANY arrests for mere possession. This is taking into account that we are no longer focusing on the addict but rather the seller.

As we have all said for a very long time, arresting people for small amounts of any drug only facilitates the revolving door for users and addicts; decreasing legitimate opportunities for those who wish to be productive while decreasing police presence in our communities at the same time.

As far as the idea that the violence is being stemmed from the legalization of marijuana or beefs over markets, that has not been the case here in D.C. You are correct that heroin is resurging and we have been tracking and targeting some of the organizations bringing it into the District.

To address the questions relating to the process that we used to reorganize our drug enforcement and how we advertised, I will say this. We spent nearly eight months developing this strategy in meetings with officers, sergeants, detectives and managers from across the department. In fact, the final structure was put together by a team that included vice sergeants, officers and lieutenants that are now part of either the Criminal Interdiction Unit or the citywide Narcotics Enforcement Unit. These two units now work together in one structure with the Gun Unit and Major Narcotics Branch to target violent drug organizations. They have all received extensive training on new tools and technologies that will make them more effective while increasing their safety.

I messaged this initiative in meetings and through several avenues within the department. In fact, we did mandatory training explaining our reasoning and new approach. This was required for every sworn member of the department. And then, we included the press in our roll out. I understand that every officer may not be happy. But, in the end we took the very best officers that we have and incorporated them into our new strategy and they have been very successful.

Lastly, the patrol district commanders were not left without any specialized units within their Districts. Each District currently has a Crime Suppression Team (CST) made up of about twenty members that they can use to deal with a variety of issues. Just last week, the Third District’s CST conducted operations that resulted in the seizure of methamphetamine, numerous pharmaceuticals, marijuana, mushrooms, ammunition and a large amount of cash.

As you can see from the string of press conferences we have had to announce arrests in this year’s homicide cases, the reasons for the violence are wide and varied. We are using a variety tactics from uniform presence to plain clothes operations along with new technologies, social media, and intelligence we have cultivated from the community to stop the violence. We will not give up and I assure you that if we work together we can be successful. I do understand your frustration and I also understand we have a ways to go. I am committed to making sure we get there.

Thank you for writing and I hope that the information I provided you has been helpful.”

Resident replies:

“Chief Lanier,

I appreciate the speed and thorough nature of your answer…especially so given how many balls are in the air at this moment. The data you present and your replies point to the reality that the MPD can’t control all factors that lead to gun violence and some of those factors may ultimately be unknowable. At the same time, you are forced by public pressure to give answers…which you have done so thoroughly below. I don’t envy you that position. Please take my reply in that light.

To your points:

Shootings – I would first point out that correlation is not causation. Comparing violence across US cities is a fraught business when the individual circumstances are so varied. Baltimore and DC are near neighbors yet I think we would agree that their levels of violence do not stem from the same (or even broadly similar) set of circumstances. In addition, any solution will have local solutions. There will be those who would use a putatively national trend to in effect pass it off as an locally unsolvable problem. I don’t believe that and I suspect you don’t either.

Putting aside for a moment the synthetic drug issue, your next points seem much more relevant to me. In sum, you say the following:

1. Overall shootings are down.

2. Fatal shootings are up.

3. Bigger magazines have a role.

4. Shooters are previous possession, homicide, supervised, repeat violent offenders.

5. Drugs arrests are up despite the elimination of possession charges.

Illegal guns have been common currency in the this city forever. So has the drug trade. I don’t think the average gun buyer is likelier than a gang member to buy a large magazine for a fire arm and certainly is much less likely to use it with intent to kill someone. The average gun buyer is also much less likely to succeed in that endeavor. From my front stoop I can see a few things that have changed around me recently: marijuana laws were reformed (which I thoroughly approve of), several previously declining neighborhood drug markets revived and gang related shootings drove the city murder rate up by an unprecedented 30%. Those data points suggest very strongly to me that two things are happening in this city…that crew violence is up and that it’s up for a particular set of reasons.

It is perhaps worth reconsidering the idea that the alteration of the local illegal drug market with the effective legalization of marijuana may be roiling those markets as crews perforce seek other drugs to sell and different markets to sell them in. That would also put the issue of synthetic drugs in a different light and explain why both of us have noted the resurgence of heroin use. It would also explain, as once profitable markets disappear, why turf battles and associated beefs would turn violent. You disagree with this position below but did not provide any data. It seems like an obvious conclusion. It certainly is what many of my neighbors believe based on what they can see with their own eyes.

Vice Squad Changes – Here the data you present is compelling but the data is colliding with circumstances. You point out the great lengths you have gone to explain to your department why the vice squad changed. I believe you and it sounds like you did it for the right reasons with sound results. The problem is that the line officers I have spoken with have not been convinced and do not seem to know the facts you presented to me. Your officers believe it doesn’t work and that belief is passed on to the community. I wouldn’t dare presume to tell you how to handle that situation. From a policy and public relations perspective it’s a grave problem.

Thanks again for responding to my concerns. I continue to be impressed with your commitment and you willingness to respond at such length. It would be helpful if others in the administration responded with such thorough candor. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Have a great day.”

Chief Lanier replies:

“Thank you. Point well taken. I will certainly redouble my efforts to improve understanding within Mpd. It matters quite a bit if the officers aren’t getting the facts.”

  • PJ

    One thing that isn’t addressed (and unfortunately isn’t quantifiable) is the possibility of the effects the Ferguson incident has on police officers. I posit that officers have second thoughts about being heavy handed and I am sure does not want to be on the front page of the news if *anything* goes wrong. I believe reorganizing the vice squad was in response to police shooting being front and center in the news. I bet there was pressure with regard to political risk in jump-outs that vice squads were doing. I am sure the bad actors feel a little more brazen and thus increase their activities with less fear and repercussions.

    • Anony

      Sadly, I have to agree with this statement

    • MZ

      Definitely. And the decades long of police abuse without accountability kept these bad actors at bay. For sure.

    • Too many people are getting Ferguson mixed up with regular crime enforcement. The BlackLivesMatter movement is about the rash of shootings of unarmed citizens. This has nothing to do with crime enforcement upon people who do have illegal weapons and drugs in their possession. There is no excuse for an officer to lessen their enforcement of the law if they execute their jobs properly within the boundaries of the law.

      Baltimore was about a young man, although a criminal, who was unrestrained in the back of a police vehicle for a violent ride that broke his neck. Police are law enforcement, not a jury nor executioner. There are separate branches within government to ensure fair and due process. We shouldn’t allow the news media or anyone else blur the line between fair law enforcement and doing their job of serving public safety. There is no excuse for officers to “back off” from public service because of public outrage, and they should take the criticism in stride and make actual efforts to improve their crime enforcement methods as any other employee would on their job if they got criticism from a customer who pays their salary.

      • Exactly.. Go easy on the killing of unarmed suspects and you’re good, brah. Unlike the commenter, I think the police are competent enough to be effective without being granted immunity from accountability.

        • Zora

          Unlike which commenter? Who said that? Are you creating straw men so you can reward yourself righteousness points?

          • To spell it out, “the Ferguson incident” is cited by the OP as an example of the kind of thing that “gives officers second thoughts about being heavy handed” and as a result “the bad actors feel a little more brazen and thus increase their activities with less fear and repercussions.” Not sure which part you’re not understanding, or don’t want to understand, but yes, the original post certainly is saying that protests over the killing of an unarmed suspect lead to hobbled police and more brazen criminals. I for one think the police can probably do their jobs effectively, and be cut slack for genuinely murky situations, without people saying “don’t question the killing of unarmed suspects unless you want emboldened criminals.” AMPD and I are agreeing with Jack.

          • Zora

            I guess the part I’m not understanding is how you can feel so entitled to judge others. You are assuming the original commenter isn’t troubled by the killing of unarmed suspects? That’s a very serious accusation to make about someone you don’t know. You sound like a real class act, my friend.

          • Zora

            Also, I noticed your supposed quotes of the original commenter aren’t quite accurate. Please do try not to misquote others. Even if it seems minor, it really is bad form.

      • Anonymous MPD

        Unfortunately your right too many people don’t understand the movement and makes even the most basic police interaction way more than it has to be. With that being said and the current chain of command a good portion of officers don’t feel certain incidents are worth it.

    • Anonymous

      “I believe reorganizing the vice squad was in response to police shooting being front and center in the news.”
      I believe that Chief Lanier gave a pretty credible explanation for the reorganization of the vice squad – the declining effectiveness of the prior vice squad model. She even provided numbers to back up that explanation. But I understand how some people want to believe the police union line that officers now feel “handcuffed” because some members of the public have the temerity to question their explanation for how a civilian ended up dead after an encounter with the police.

      • Anon

        +1 This points to a major problem with how America polices its cities if officers are allowing crime to flourish because they can’t simply kill people without consequence anymore.

      • Eponymous

        Disagree. She said that “The productivity of the vice units has dropped dramatically over the years. For example, when looking at the first four months of 2015 compared to 2014, non-marijuana drug arrests had decreased 31 percent – this is five months before we centralized our enforcement strategy. Search warrants and gun recoveries in these units were also declining. ”
        Number of arrests/warrants =/= lack of productivity. It might just as well indicate more effective prevention. I’m not an expert on police tactics, but purely from a logical standpoint this is a very weak answer.

        • Huh?

          It does show that policing seems to be whackamole. If there are no moles then you won and need to find a new game.

          • Eponymous

            I may be misunderstanding your point, but… I hope that’s not the goal. North Arlington has fewer arrests than D.C. Does that mean the police need to find a new game?

    • Frankly

      Great credit to the letter writer!

      “The problem is that the line officers I have spoken with have not been convinced and do not seem to know the facts you presented to me.”

      If the police on the street don’t believe will they be less or more effective in achieving the police chief’s goals via the new methods???

      It’s not just officers that might be unintentionally less engaged. I say this believing in our police. But people watching the national events intently with anger and fear building from seeing fellow citizens shot. The roiled and reorganizing drug market Is looking for new profit sources too. Synthetic drugs feeds these problems in several ways and insufficient police communication to the public about their wins can make it feel like people can get away with murder… so perhaps people are inclined to try?

      The stat about fewer shots, more homicides. Wow. Is that shooting talent or unfortunate luck breaking thru there? We still need homicidewatch.org but it’s gone.

    • Anon X

      I suspect that the multiple situations involving urban police departments and the urban poor have contributed to the violence we’re seeing. There is more anger and distrust between all sides (political, police, residents of all demographics/incomes) when it comes to enforcement/policing/etc and there are a lot of angry people who may feel emboldened to act out to either antagonize the power structure (from which they are excluded), including police (and maybe new, upper income, residents) or opportunists as police try to re-align strategies to accommodate the concerns created by recent incidents.

      Either way, I dont think you can completely write off all of the police-related incidents, the magnification of them by the media, the civil unrest/anger, and the widespread surge in crime across many major cities. Maybe synthetic drugs plays a role, too… maybe more vice squads could help, but there are systemic issues coming stemming from these recent events and an imbalance in society that have to be looked at too.

      I am not saying we need to change policing, or that the police are bad or, on the flip side, that the people with gripes against the police are right or wrong… I just think you cant look at this big uptick in crime without at least considering what else is going on in society with crime/punishment/police as a possible contributing factor.

    • MarkQ

      But the guy in Ferguson wasn’t charge. Neither was the cop on LI. And the cop in NC had a hung jury. Wouldn’t these outcomes make cops more emboldened (just trying to follow your logic here).

      • Anon

        Just because they weren’t charged doesn’t mean their lives haven’t been changed dramatically by the publicity that comes with a high-profile shooting like Ferguson.

    • ET

      I suspect that events in Ferguson, etc. have left there impact on both sides of the equation.

    • JCDC

      Totally agree.

  • Huh. Maybe we CAN have nice things.

  • annonny

    So, letter-writer, you “thoroughly approve of” marijuana legalization, recognize that it’s a likely source of escalating violence as crews consolidate shrinking/changing markets, then complain about all the violence the police department hadn’t predicted but is trying to stop? Maybe another way of looking at things is that marijuana legalization wasn’t such a great idea after all?

    • Anon

      Additionally, can someone explain to me where people are getting their pot now? Since we have no legal sales, why is it that drug dealers have seen their market share disrupted?

      • Huh?

        Selling marihuana isn’t as lucrative anymore because its use is legal now. Dealers get paid more for whatever is illegal. A “danger pay” if you will. Dealers still know their old client base and still have their selling skills so they’ve started marketing new products instead of marihuana. Thus it’s a new game out there likely with people moving in on others’ selling territories with the “new to you” products to sell.

        • Anon

          It’s still illegal for them to sell. The number of people in DC successfully growing all of their own pot can probably be counted on two, three hands. It’s not like DC suddenly turned into BC.

        • Anon

          Is their clientele who used to buy pot now purchasing synthetics or heroin? Purely anecdotal, but I’m not convinced these customer bases are necessarily the same even if the dealers are “marketing” their new product. Pot to heroin is a pretty big leap.

          • mail

            pot to heroin is like beer to drain cleaner. Not to say someone who drinks drain cleaner wouldn’t also drink beer, but a beer drinker isn’t tempted by drano.
            Legalization of cannabis needs to be accompanied by a regulatory framework and legal retail stores, obviously, but legalization of possession by users isn’t causing gun violence.

    • sproc

      Legalization is a perfectly sensible idea, as long as it’s accompanied by a legal, regulated and taxed retail channel, which is a pipe dream absent statehood.

    • People are not getting shot over marijuana being legalized… K2 is even cheaper than marijuana, but it’s circulating much faster, and becoming more popular even though people can now grow weed legally in their homes now. We’ve gotta ask ourselves why this is happening? It’s because a lot of the users of cheap drugs have deep seated health and pain issues that the health care industry doesn’t address, Lots of those people don’t have the ability to afford health care and that drives abuse. Fix health care for the poor & homeless and that will be a first step in fixing this pandemic.

      We need to now also take a look at the people buying the drugs, but unfortunately that’s often the senator’s daughter or the lawyer’s son, who they don’t want to go to jail… Even President bush wasn’t immune to this, but somehow his daughters didn’t get the same kind of sentence as everyone else.

      As with anything, if the demand dries up, the suppliers dissipate. We’ve been running the war on drugs on suppliers for ages now and it hasn’t even dented the supply industry because demand is always strong.

      The term “synthetic marijuana” seems so ignorant and opportunistic as a term to me because it seems to indicate it’s different or worse than synthetic heroin, or synthetic cocaine, or even synthetic Oxycontin. It’s all the same offense and issue in my book, the only difference is the pricing and class of the victims.

      • Huh?

        Sure, healthcare and homelessness. You’re a lot healthier not living in the street and having enough money for food. Could be a lot cheaper dealing with these problems than tragedies and homicides.

      • Anon

        That’s a lot of words to suggest that MPD should focus on the end-users. You do realize that up until very recently, this has been the entire MO of the “War on Drugs” and that it’s failed miserably, right? As Chief Lanier suggests above, targeting end-users is an exercise in futility and only helps drive illegal drug trade and all of its related problems.

        • Anon

          I think the point is more that their are bigger societal forces playing into the situation occurring now. DC focusing on social services like health care and sentencing practices to end the cycle of poverty and abuse is probably a more accurate summary of what jack5 was saying?

          • Anon

            Sorry if I misunderstood Jack’s point. I fully agree on the need to improve social services to help cull the cycle of poverty and abuse.

        • Dark Alley

          By “failed miserably” do you mean that violent crime was down and incarceration was up? If I was a criminal I would agree. If I was a victim of a crime that could have been prevented by the incarceration of a repeat offender I would disagree.

      • textdoc

        “K2 is even cheaper than marijuana, but it’s circulating much faster, and becoming more popular even though people can now grow weed legally in their homes now. We’ve gotta ask ourselves why this is happening? It’s because a lot of the users of cheap drugs have deep seated health and pain issues that the health care industry doesn’t address, Lots of those people don’t have the ability to afford health care and that drives abuse.”
        That might be some of it, but K2/spice/”synthetic marijuana” is also becoming more popular because it’s significantly cheaper than marijuana and because routine drug tests generally don’t test for it. IIRC, several (many?) states have laws against it, but those with laws have run into legal issues where the manufacturers change the composition of the drug slightly and then claim that it’s legal.
        Some good reading on synthetic marijuana, especially from the public-health point of view:

    • west_egg

      So your argument is that we should arbitrarily outlaw things for the purpose of preserving criminals’ livelihoods? Sound logic, there.

      • mail


  • Doc

    Honest question:

    You still can’t legally buy or sell marijuana in DC, correct? So is every person in DC that “partakes” growing their own? (I’m guessing the answer is no). So there still should be a market for illegal pot sales (even though possession of pot is legal), right?

    As such, I’m not sure I buy (pun intended) the idea that marijuana legalization has affected street gangs/drug markets. I think there has to be some other driving factor.

    • Anonymous

      Whose letter are you addressing? I believe a fair reading of Chief Lanier’s letter is that legalization of marijuana/beefs over drug markets is NOT a driving force in the increase in homicides.

      • Doc

        I’m addressing the hypothesis that pot legalization is driving the changes we are seeing. I don’t see how that’s possible, unless I’m missing something about how people are getting their weed.

        • Huh?

          Doc, what if the size of the pot market has dried up and those running the (former) businesses are looking for new revenue sources. They want their old income back, right? Legalized pot created job losses. A portion of the problem could be turf warfare while trying to develop broader customer bases for different illegal products or people with too much time on their hands and no money.

          • Anon

            Why would the pot market dry up just because there’s no longer a legal consequence for measured use on private property? You think most people are smoking pot so they can “stick it to the man”? That’s a silly proposition.

          • Doc

            Legalizing pot should INCREASE not decrease the demand. Unless everyone is a Nancy Botwin (which I really don’t think is the case). More DEMAND should mean more volume and either more jobs (if supply is infinite) or higher prices if it is not.

            Maybe there is so much new demand that crews are fighting over the new sales? But there is no way they have moved on to selling other things just because pot is legal to possess, as it’s not legal to buy or sell.

        • Anon

          Doc, that hypothesis is simply bogus. These shootings aren’t happening over dime bags of weed, legal or not. I don’t think you’re missin anything.

    • Eponymous

      From the individual user’s standpoint though, it’s now less risky to smoke it. It’s legal to use, and this seems to have caused enforcement to become a low priority on MPD’s part. Perhaps that has caused the market for illegal marijuana to expand. And since there aren’t legal head shops to meet demand, the illegal sellers have stepped in.

  • andy

    Not a substantive comment at all, BUT DANG Chief Lanier is a good and fast writer!

  • Wyatt

    I share this young man or woman concerns. I’m dissatisfied with the current state of the response to the uptick in violence in the city from MPD, Judiciary Council Chairman Keynon McDuffie, DC Council, and from the Mayor’s office. I written to DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and he seem to point the finger at the mayor’s office. Where is At-Large DC Councilmember David Grosso? Has anyone sent him an email regarding the violence in the District, and have they gotten a response from David Grosso? Myself and others have sent At-Large DC Councilmember Daivd Grosso emails on public safety and other issues and he never responds. It’s like Councilmember Grosso is pushing his own agenda on the DC Council. I am 55 years old and most law abiding DC residents are concerned about the violence regardless of age.

    • Anonymous Shaw Dweller

      I have sent all of our Mayor, her chief of staff, all At Large Members and their chief of staffs: Gross, Silverman, Bond, Orange and Mendelson and have only had the courtesy of a response from from Anita Bond’s chief of staff. I do not believe the Council is taking the action necessary and required.

      • Wyatt

        I agree, Shaw Dweller. SMH At-Large DC Councilmembers seem to be less engaged with constituents as the Ward Councilmembers.

    • Interesting. We wrote letters to the Mayor, Mendelson, Todd, the at-large CMs, and our ANC and the only person we got response from was Grosso.
      The Mayor, Lanier, and Grosso (from his return email to us) repeatedly cite stats from other major US cities and how they have all been exhibiting an uptick in violent crime and that DC is not as experiencing as big a spike as they are so actually its not that bad. The thing is, I don’t really care how we compare to other cities — what I care about is that the fact is there is a lot more violent crime in MY city and in my neighborhood and I don’t feel safe. Within the last month there have been at least 10 shootings/homicides within a short radius of my street — and these are at playgrounds, at the metro, and on people’s front porches – in the middle of the day. The elected officials need to grab hold of this with some bigger ideas than extra reward money.

  • TrinidadLopez

    I do suspect that you have crews battling over shrinking turf (as neighborhoods have change or improved depending on how you see it) at the same time that crews saw a very significant revenue stream slashed or eliminated (marijuana). Add in increased firepower and you get a recipe for increased deaths and injuries. You’d have to run down exactly who is shooting (rather than just who is getting shot) to get a better idea but this is what I suspect is playing a role here. There are certainly high profile cases dealing with synthetics but they not be indicative of the larger issue, although they’re scary and tragic.

    If you have competitors in specific markets (neighborhoods) fighting over more limited product lines (illegal drugs) you might get conflict. In these markets, it means gunfire. Just my two cents but most things do general come down to someone chasing someone else’s dollar.

  • jcm

    I wish she would address the union’s complaint about the current size of the force. I believe the authorized number is 3900. I would like to know exactly how many sworn officers she has available right now. I keep reading that there’s a big shortage, but I haven’t seen any up to date numbers.

    • FWIW, DC’s MPD has far more officers per capita than police departments elsewhere. And that doesn’t include numbers from all the other police departments operating in our jurisdiction (housing police, Metro Transit Police, Park Police, Uniformed Secret Service, Federal Protective Service, US Capitol Police, etc.).

      In fact the first thing that came to my mind after the riots in Baltimore was “now I understand why DC has almost twice the number of police as Baltimore.”


  • Anonymous

    Crime may very well cost the Mayor and Lanier their jobs if it doesn’t improve. Gun related crimes aside, I’ve seen an uptick in general street harassment and assaults. I can only speak to my experience, but as a resident of Petworth my feeling of safety and happiness in DC have greatly diminished since Bowser took over… And I voted for her.

  • News reports imply that the increase in homicides is everywhere in DC. But this isn’t so.

    Of the increase in homicide count, 2015 vs. 2014, 75% are in 7D (MPD District 7).
    The citywide increase is about 33%, but for 7D, the year-over=year increase is 84%.
    Take out 7D, and the remainder of the District has seen an increase in homicides of 15%.
    Four of those homicides were a rather special case — the quadruple murder in the home in Woodley Park. Take out those four, and the increase in homicides in DC, outside of 7D, is 8%.
    That’s an increase, to be sure, but for the safety of you and yours, 8% isn’t much of a difference, one way or the other.
    I think it’s a mistake to focus on homicides, which almost always involve individuals known to each other. Better to worry about robberies, which are generally stranger-upon-innocent-victim, and which are 20 times as numerous as homicides. And robberies, as the Post observed in a recent editorial, are “flat”, just a 7% change, this year vs. last year.

    • Very very good point.

      There are different things going on, which need to be addressed separately, or at least in a nuanced fashion, as you point out (and thank you for doing so).

      1. New synthetic drugs being consumed leading to more violence and violent crimes.
      2. slight homicide increase outside of 7D.
      3. the homicides in 7D (return offenders, changes in drug sales/turfs, more powerful weapons)
      4. increases in availability of guns, use of them, and more powerful guns
      5. post-Ferguson/Baltimore effect both on police and on the populace

      But yes, people focus on homicide when for the most part, except when people get caught in the crossfire, which seems to have happened more this year, it’s “only” a problem in the most impoverished areas of the city.

      That being said, long term we need to deal with long term poverty which creates the conditions in 7D which support violence. cf.


    • thomas smith

      finally, someone with a sense of reality. the average person has a higher chance of being run over than being shot (by someone he does NOT know0 as you pointed out the simple numbers are misleading. and the reality of who is shooting whom (and why) is the real key to the question.

  • PewPew

    I am going to credit her for giving very direct on point answers. This gives me some faith that this may be a temporary spike, rather than a long term trend.

    • Resident

      Chief Lanier should be commended for responding at such length and with such detail. She did so while the barricade situation was still ongoing in Brookland and while Marcus King was turning himself in. On another note, it is important to look at all violent crime. Year on year between January 1 and August 21st, all reported violent crime increased as follows:

      1st District: +15% (homicide +0)
      2nd District: -3% (homicide +4)
      3rd District: +3% (homicide +4)
      4th District: +13% (homicide +1)
      5th District: +24% (homicide +6)
      6th District: -16% (homicide -7)
      7th District: -4% (homicide +16)

      Treated as a whole, there was a year on year increase across the District of about 3% mitigated by a big drop in crime in the 6th District. That data suggests that what is driving overall crime is note working lockstep with what is driving homicides in the District.

  • ChrisCosta

    – What is considered a high capacity magazine in DC? 10 rounds, if I am not mistaken.

    – Meanwhile, DC police use Glock magazines with a higher capacity (13 rounds of .40SW). What is the need for MPD to have higher capacity magazines if guns and magazines over 10 rounds are essentially illegal?

    – How do you know what types of magazines are used if suspects are rarely caught weapon in hand?

    – Is this an assumption based off of how many shell casings are recovered?

    Cathy said on 8/13 that DC had seen “a huge influx, not only in guns in our major cities, but a huge influx in these high capacity magazines.” So it appears that she knows that laws do not apply to criminals.

    • no

      Actually, MPD uses Glock 17 9×19 firearms, which are 9mm not 40 cal, with magazines that have 17 rounds each.

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    Lot of people on this thread are getting an F for their explanations of the economics of the drug trade.

  • Resident
  • Calvin H. Gurley

    I would like to read Police Chief Lanier ‘s, two cited, reports for myself and own edification.

    Police Chief Lanier forgot to give the reference for each of the documents that were used as evidence.
    Mr. Prince of Petworth, your follow-up should have requested these two reports from the Chief.

    1) “…You have asked for evidence that synthetic drugs are having an impact on our community violence. In a survey completed in late July, 30% of the major cities that responded reported an increase in violent crime in which the offender is under the influence of synthetic drugs…” Per Police Chief Lanier.

    2) “…In July, one of the federal supervision agencies, tested 136 individuals arrested for violent crimes, and found that 20% were positive for synthetics, including 44% of those arrested for Assault on a Police Officer and 36% of those arrested for armed robbery. Per Police Chief Lanier.

    a) What is a federal supervision agency who tests arrested individuals for drug use?
    b) Twenty percent of 136 arrests equals to 27.2 arrests while the other 80 percent are
    synthetic marijuana- free violent offenders. Twenty percent of the total arrest, due to the
    use of synthetic marijuana, does not confirm an epidemic.

    Police Chief Lanier, please submit your support, medical or scientific evidence to your declaration below.
    3) Per Police Chief, “…People under the influence of this drug can have super human power, be
    effected by excited delirium, and have a reaction very similar to PCP…”

    4) Per Police Chief, “…You are correct that heroin is resurging and we have been tracking and targeting some of the organizations bringing it into the District…”

    Days after passing legislation, Police Chief Lanier targeted the sale of synthetic marijuana and closed down a food market store owned by one of her own MPD Officers. However, FOX News reported :
    (A) Evidence: Monday, June 15, 2015, Fox News T.V. morning segment –
    A young, 19 years old Caucasian girl [from Montgomery County, MD) died at Echo’s Stage Music Club from an overdose of Molly; the main ingredient in Ecstasy. Did the Mayor and Chief Lanier closed down Echo Stage Music Club?

    In 2013, another 19 years old youth died…at the same club [Echo’s] of a similar overdose from Molly? However, in the same Fox News segment the Mayor and Police Chief announced a scheduled news conference to attack and create legislation to punish businesses that provides/sells – not MOLLY…but synthetic marijuana.

    Calvin H. Gurley
    Let’s “ALL” live well, enjoy and have fun in our Nation’s Capital

  • John Jackson

    This is horseshit, and the supreme leader of MPD doesn’t address at all the morale, departmental manpower crisis, or the fact that her “CST” excuse is false! Crime Suppression Teams are also inhibited from completing their functions because they are often times stuck on fixed post patrols to backfill for the low manpower. Everytime I speak with an officer their priority is to accept another offer of employment as soon as possible. Nobody wants to stay, and everybody leaves MPD. The only answer to safeguard our neighborhoods is if we work together for better leadership. Somebody that will represent our safety concerns AND treat their subordinates with due regard for their morale and safety. We need better working conditions inside MPD so that officers want to stay. We need protection in these times of danger, and a revolving door at MPD for great police officers is NOT what we need. We need them here, and we need them to stay SO we NEED better conditions for them to want to stay! Change Lanier’s ways or get rid of her. That is what I gather from my many interactions with MPD.

  • Brett M

    I can’t understand why you support Lanier when she has let you down. What’s the reason? Statistically crime is up since she began in 2007.


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