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ANC Rep Calls Out the Mayor for failing “to address the surge in crime”

by Prince Of Petworth August 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm 61 Comments


From the Shaw listserv after the latest shooting on O Street last night:

“The mayor has failed to address the surge in crime in many neighborhoods across the city. While other cities have had it far worse it’s extremely distressing that small areas of our city continue to be a problem year after year to the point where I hope for evening downpours to drive the criminal element inside thus reducing the chances of violence. The mayor needs to demand action by her agency leaders and call a meeting with prosecutors to discuss lenient sentences and lack of prosecution of violent arrestees. MPD can lock them up but violent offenders need to stay behind bars.

There was a discussion about additional lighting and cameras at the rec months ago and we are still waiting. These are not complicated fixes. The park rangers can’t even be troubled to pick up a piece of trash when walking because it’s become accepted that some of our parks are models for the broken windows theory.

There are also members of the community who know who are responsible for these crimes but they keep quiet due to fear or being known as a snitch. Until the community as a whole reaches a tipping point of no longer accepting the culture of violence our challenges will persist.

I encourage all to call 911 any time even petty crime is witnessed, be it possession of an open container of alcohol, illegal gambling “dice,” public pot smoking, public urination etc as these issues often lead to bigger issues and also lend themselves to what appears to be a culture of acceptance by some of petty crime around the greater area of Kennedy Rec. The more calls for service PSA 308 gets, the higher the likelihood of more officers becoming permanently assigned to the PSA.

Charlie Bengel
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F06
Chair, Logan Circle ANC Public Safety Committee”

  • shaw

    This is why Charlie is awesome :) Check out his bio – he’s a former police officer; he knows what he’s talking about. Glad to have such a great commissioner on the ANC!

  • Patrick Division

    Wonderful statement with some good ideas. However, step one is arresting law breakers, or at least responding to the crime scene, and MPD apparently isn’t willing to do either of those things. Without step one, the rest of this mission is doomed.

    • Eponymous

      You’re assuming that 1) MPD has adequate staffing to do this, and 2) that arresting people who are going to be given a slap on the wrists isn’t futile.

    • Pixiesticks

      This. X1 million. Mom has to arrest them before anything is solved and they just aren’t doing that

      • Pixiesticks

        Darn autocorrect. Lol. Mpd has to arrest them.

  • AdmsMgn

    I agree that non working street lights and other safety measures are not acceptable. As long as the perps feel they can easily get away with crime and get lenient sentences, it’ll continue to persist.

    Also, I saw that Lanier has addressed the crime uptick and recently attended a conference with other big city police chiefs. Unfortunately, the uptick isn’t unique to the District.

    In regard to the lenient sentences, a perfect example was a story in the Washington Blade about a judge who gave a very lenient sentence to a lesbian and her brother after a jury found them guilty of a “hate crime” against a gay man. She then made the sentence even more lenient and only changed course because of a technicality.

  • Brett M

    Why are we not blaming Chief Cathy Lanier? She’s been around for 8 years and crime has increased, and thefts are up 40% under her watch (or lack thereof). Community policing is dead, and most police are too lazy to walk the beat. Cathy Lanier has failed us and that’s why she’s on a PR campaign to save herself from the being fired.

    • nico heights

      Where are you getting this stat? I thought violent crime (not thefts) is significantly down since 2008 and it sure feels that way too even though you wouldn’t know it reading this blog.

      • Brett M

        Violent crime does not equal total crime. “Violent crime” and “crime” are not the same terms. Total crime has gone up since Lanier took office.

        Thefts are not violent crime but thefts are the most common form of crime in DC. Thefts are up 40% since Lanier took office. These are from the MPDs figures reported to the FBI.

        Call your Councilman and the Mayor and tell them to replace Lanier with someone with a proven record.

      • ET

        I suspect that thoughts on rise/fall of crime may depend on the time frame one is looking at and when someone moved to the city and how long they have lived here. I am pretty sure that long-term trends (i.e. looking at the 80’s and early 90’s) that crime overall – has gone down. But if you look at say the last 5 years, 2015 would have seen a definite spike.

      • madmonk28
        • Brett M

          They’re actually up 28.2%..http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/district-crime-data-glance
          But murders in DC are rarely random. Most people murdered were drug dealing and involved in other disputes. The most prevalent crime that affects more DC residents is thefts, which have risen to levels unseen since 1998.

  • 7thStTechGuy

    You got what you voted for, DC. I’m sure we would be lamenting Catania’s calls for accountability from DPR/MPDC, and ultimately Metro and DCPS. A vapid smile and an empty suit- Muriel Bowser.

    • ecklikewhoa

      HAHAHAH this is funny cause harldy anyone voted this election.. we got nothing.
      I would be amazed if Catania or anyone else could spur marked change in such troubled systems as Metro, DCPS, and MPD.
      Crazy to say this but I do miss Fenty, at least there was some movement towards improvement in these agencies. He did wonders with DPR.

      • Accountering

        I think its reasonable to say that under Catania, we would see him at least caring. There wouldn’t be an orchestrated walk-around of Columbia Heights and then a pile of platitudes.

        • Brett M

          There’s nothing reasonable about assuming what Catania would have done in the fantastical event he became mayor.

      • 7thStTechGuy

        Agreed- that’s kind of the point. But at least the guy had the stones to call people out. Fenty did the same thing, and look at where that got him.

        • Tinker Taylor

          It got him to France and the Caribbean – hanging out with Laurene!

    • Luckycat

      Not everyone in DC voted for her. Many of us are frustrated.

      • AdmsMgn

        I have often wondered since Bowser grew up here in the 70s and 80s when the city was in far worse shape, perhaps in her mind, things really aren’t that bad. Even with this surge, it’s still much better than in those days. I grew up in the area and can attest to that.

        Not defending her, just trying to gauge from a different perspective as to why she hasn’t spoken out.

        • Anonamom

          This is a valid point. Honestly, I can to DC as a child in the 1980s and I often think how it’s not as bad now as it was then. To be perfectly honest, the uptick in crime has only just now began to phase me. Perhaps knowing the all to recent history of DC crime had colored my view.

    • ET

      I think you are wrong – people would have been on Catania if he had been elected. Not just becuase that is what people do – I am sure people in other metro areas that having the same rise/spike in crime are likely shouting at/questioning their mayors (and police chiefs). I didn’t vote for her because yes she is an empty suit and just felt that she was just not up to the job of mayor – all parts of it. To think things would be different with regards to crime (and the response to it) with someone else seems to indicate that somehow the situation in DC is different than Baltimore and Chicago and it isn’t, not really. I am all for putting blame where it needs to be and holding people accountable when warranted, but sometimes situations are bigger than a single person.

      • Anon

        The situation is the same as those cities because a empty suit mayor worried about offending some hand cuffed her police department by doing away real police work in much the same way as the mayors of those cities did

  • madmonk28

    I’m just happy to see an elected official at any level admit there is a problem and call out the city leadership to do their jobs. The problem is complex and so will be the solutions, but the first step is acknowledging that there is a problem and then getting started on chipping away at it.

  • sproc

    LOL “public pot smoking.” I feel like I walk the streets of this city with just as many or more people smoking pot than tobacco, very often past MPD officers who clearly do not care in the slightest.

    • anon

      I’d prefer if more people smoked pot. would probably reduce the crime rate. haha… free pot for all!

  • John

    I get so tired of the anti-Bowser crowd blaming every sidewalk crack is the Mayor’s fault As several others have pointed out and any reader of local news understands, the surge in violent crime this summer is a phenomenon happening in many major cities.

    So, what’s the solution? First, yes, there is a cultural issue where some people are just too far gone and the consequences of violent crimes should be long prison terms. Second, let’s not forget how factors like teen pregnancy, poor schools, mental illness, homelessness/housing costs and lack of economic opportunity for low-income people play in long-term crime trends. A big factor in crime dropping is that it’s simply pushed out of neighborhoods by gentrification. At some point, that can’t continue.

    Second, I agree that part of the summer surge is due to synthetic drugs and a resurgence in street level drug dealing. I also wonder if Lanier’s re-org of vice units out of PSAs into a centralized resource hurt. A lot of crimes are committed by the same people, get them off the street and it can have a big impact. Get more uniformed and undercover law enforcement on the streets patrolling. In the past few weeks I’ve seen cops walking the beat several times, cops on bikes etc. in Columbia Heights…it’s good to see. And, guess what, crime in ANC 1A is steady to down so far in August or down compared to last year.

    Lastly, it’s great to speak out – not just some ANC Commissioner, but specifically by doing what he said – call 911 or 311 and report anything. Only emergencies go to police dispatch, so you’re not preventing emergency response by reporting the petty things.

    • Anon

      I get so tired of people making excuses for the Mayor’s incompetence. This is absurd. This isn’t a sidewalk crack, this is a serious problem with violent crime. It doesn’t matter if it’s more or less crime than x number of years ago. It’s a problem and it’s happening now. We are not asking her to wave a magic wand and fix these problems overnight. But how about something as simple as a public statement acknowledging that this is a problem instead of running from the press and when she does hold press conferences holding them on issues of far lesser immediate importance?? I encourage you to take a look at her public schedule this week. Meanwhile, my pocket of Shaw just experienced its eighth REPORTED shooting in the past 4 months. I emphasize “reported” because there have been countless others this summer that have gone unreported. Enough is enough.

    • west_egg

      “So, what’s the solution?”
      I’ll name some things that aren’t the solution: (1) platitudes; (2) studies; (3) Top to Bottom Reviews™. Oops, we’ve run out of things the mayor has to offer.
      (And I’ll be darned if I’m not going to blame her for sidewalk cracks, at least the worst of them that have been around since she took office more than seven months ago. She is in the position to direct how city resources are allocated and how efforts are focused; the fact that 13th Street NW has as many craters as the moon is absolutely her fault. Tony Williams’ roads were not this bad.)

      • anon

        (4) Creation of a position (insert snazzy acronym) to “coordinate” with other created positions to ensure something yet to be determined

  • Jack Stevens

    1. Just becasue crime is up/bad in other cities that doesnt mean it should be bad here.
    2. Hot weather should not be an execuse either. That is saying that people who dont have access to cool areas to spend there time cant cotnrol their emotions/morals…

    An absent mayor with no real plan of action, not plan to plan or plan to study is the real solution. While Im sure that in 5 years Muriel could be assertive, today she is not, and she is damaging the long term emotional, physical, and financial health of Washington DC as a result.

    As for Chief Lanier, we need a leader, she is not leading anything currently, we need for our police to feel supported and as if they will make a difference.

    When I have to call the park police because I know at least they will show up, and Im hold with 911 for 5-10 min, this is a failure of leadership.

    For the first time in the decade of living here, Im considering moving to other surrounding communities. Sad day indeed for DC. but hey, at least we get a soccer stadium and today Muriel said we will have wind power too.

    #wheresmuriel #atleastfentyshowedup

  • Kathryn-DC

    For her part, Cathy Lanier has been sounding the alarm about an MPD officer shortage since March. A wave of retiring officers and those who resigned have reduced the force by at least 700.

    • Brett M

      DC has FAR MORE police per capita than any other major city in the world. If New York, London, Paris, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc. can manage lower crime rates with far lower police per capita, then so can we.

      Lanier is just on a PR campaign to save herself from being replaced.

      • Not really

        Only if you count all the fees who do nothing for us.

      • Kathryn-DC

        DC also has to manage far more tasks and problems than other municipal police departments. Some of the staffing goes into special departments to handle the White House, the Hill, etc.

        • anon

          the staffing levels at the MPD has been dropping significantly over the PAST 18 months. Lanier knew this was coming and closed the academy and recruiting for almost two years. Approximately 330 officers left the MPD last year.. HALF were officers that had less than 10 years on the job. Why did they leave?
          Remember back in April 2013?

          Bowser, Cheh, and numerous other council members blew off the vote for the city to decide whether to side with the arbitration award or go back to the table to negotiate a new contract. They went with the arbitration award. Cathy Lanier refused to show at the hearing to speak for the rank and file. No support.
          So, now things are getting bad and the new and old officers are hitting the exit door because other agencies pay better, better benefits and a community that supports them. Good luck on retention of most new officers. The city council, of which Bowser was part of at the time, blew the DC Police officers off. As the article says, you lose!

    • Anonymouse

      Lanier has been talking about the MPD attrition issue for several years.

      What did Phil Mendelson do when he was head of the Judiciary Committee? Nothing.

      What did Tommy Wells do when he was head of the Judiciary Committee? Nothing.

      What did Kenyan McDuffie do when he was head of the Judiciary Committee? Nothing.

      And where is uber-liberal David Grosso? He talked a big game about how bad and racist the cops are (remember his line about the cops shouldn’t be armed?), but he’s dead silent when there’s all these shootings going on. That’s some quality leadership!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure what “addressing” the problem means. Talking about it? Having meetings? Making people feel like they are being heard even if nothing is really being done?
    I’ve lived in DC since 2000 and pretty much every year, with few exceptions, there has been a “crime wave” – real or perceived. The same calls for action get made – broken windows, stop and frisk, zero tolerance, no more leniency in the justice system.
    The deck chairs on the Titanic get rearranged a bit – a light tower here, an all hands on deck there. Things get marginally better. Wash, rinse, repeat.
    I think a lot of what is happening this year is that there has been a lot of really high-end development that has occurred in marginal areas. Some people naively believed that luxury buildings, million dollar rowhouses, beer gardens, and trendy restaurants would translate into a completely safe neighborhood. They don’t. The problems are not being brought to these new developments; the developments are locating themselves in the middle of the problems.

    • west_egg

      Ah, ye olde “I’ve been here since [insert year during first GWBush administration], you whipper-snappers don’t know nothing about crime!” chestnut from another Anonymous.
      “Some people naively believed that luxury buildings, million dollar rowhouses, beer gardens, and trendy restaurants would translate into a completely safe neighborhood.” — BuII$hit! Precisely nobody had that expectation. Insult people by calling them “naive” if it makes you feel better, but there’s nothing wrong with being upset about violence in your neighborhood and expecting more than platitudes from the city’s leadership. And where does that leave people who can’t afford to live near luxury buildings and trendy restaurants–they’re just totally screwed, I guess, and should never expect anything better than the status quo.
      Maybe the problem is old-timers like yourself who set their expectations no higher than the nearest MPD light tower? I’m glad to hear we’ve reached whatever lower threshold it is you’ve set for yourself as far as a tolerable level of violence, but others of us want better for our community.

      • Anonymous

        There’s nothing wrong about being upset by violence in your neighborhood. There is something wrong with moving to a neighborhood with a crime problem and thinking that just because you have moved there the crime problem is now going to be solved, or solved overnight. Especially when there are a bunch of other neighborhoods with as much if not more crime.

        • west_egg

          Who is expecting the problem to be solved overnight once they arrive in the neighborhood? What I’m hearing is frustration that the city’s leadership is not engaged.

    • JM

      That doesn’t explain why murders are up 20%, unless you think the high-end developments are actually causing more homicides.

      The upward trend in crime is real, and it isn’t just a one-year “uptick” – its been increasing a few different categories for a couple of years now.

      As to your first question, the solution can encompass:
      – directing more city resources toward hiring incentives for more police;
      – re-implementing the city’s Vice squads and increasing plain clothes sting operations;
      – using the Mayor’s “bully pulpit” to call out judges who are lenient on violent offenders – imagine if she made as much noise about that as the perennial (but basically irrelevant) statehood issue.
      – directing the police to enforce quality of life crimes such as dice games, public drinking, public pot smoking, and noise ordinances.
      – providing positive outlets for kids by fixing Rec Centers and providing late-night programming for otherwise aimless youth

      • Anon


  • Living in ANC-1, I see the same groups of criminals day in and day out, smoking weed and parking illegally, double parking even at the end of Lamont Street, dealing drugs in plain sight all the way until 3-4am on weekdays.

    I have YET to see any Police Presence pull down Lamont once in the 3 years I have lived there. Park Road gets no love as well. These two streets, if they were cleaned up, along with house at the intersection of Lamont and Georgia with dozens of vagrants sleeping in and around the home, would greatly reduce the problems in the area.

    I’ve had packages stolen, mail gone through, back yard rummaged around in. It is a good thing I keep my grill locked to a fence, otherwise that’d be gone too.

    • 7thStTechGuy

      and on top of that, you pay DC taxes! Shame on you for demanding more.

  • Danielle Pierce

    Well said!

  • JL

    Good for the commissioner on calling out the administration. They need to do something instead of trying to ignore the violence. People are not going to accept violent crime to just go on and on in their neighborhoods. The thugs need to go to jail and stay there for a good long while.

  • Shaw Citizen

    Why not tear down the old public housing that concentrates the poverty and rebuild with new mixed-using housing? With higher density there could likely be the same amount of affordable housing while having an opportunity to wipe the slate clean with new and better housing options. As many have said in these posts before, while it’s the newcomers to the neighborhood that are complaining the loudest it’s the law abiding citizens in these old public housing units that are suffering the most.

    • Anonymous

      DC has already done that in a number of areas and is planning to do that in others – The Park Morton, for example. One big problem is that these projects don’t get approved without some provision for relocating the residents during construction and a guaranteed right of return afterwards. There aren’t enough units of affordable housing to hold the current residents of these buildings while they wait for their former homes to be rebuilt. The Park Morton is sitting half-empty right now. The neighborhood has been waiting for that plot to be redeveloped for years.

    • ET

      Actually they have been but maybe not the ones your are familiar with and definitely not all of them. I live in Hill East and those familiar with the area will tell you stories about Kentucky Courts – heck the WaPo magazine had an article about that project many years ago. Also, the Arthur Capper and the Carrollsburg buildings on M? SW? and a good bit of the stock on East Capitol on the other side of the river was torn down and replaced with mixed income/use.

  • Shaw neighbor

    Thank you Popville for posting this letter. There have been countless emails flying around the Shaw listserv, and no action by the City. The more attention that gets directed to this issue- the better. Eight reported shootings in 4 months in a tiny area- and the police have done nothing. The City’s leadership has done nothing. What’s even more frustrating about the latter fact is that the City is the primary steward of the land and buildings where this is happening. The city owns the Rec Center; it owns the parcels across the street; it owns the public housing; etc. these problems emanate from the City’s failure to fix its own house- and frankly, that goes to the Mayor and all of the agencies that jump at her direction. And YES- they do jump, but we haven’t seen anything that shows she’s paying attention to this issue. Instead, she’s speaking out about wind power. Madam Mayor- with all due respect, DC doesn’t need anymore Hot Air.

  • west_egg

    The mayor sent out her weekly update with the subject line, “Keeping Our City Safe.” It features not one but two qualifiers/excuses in the first paragraph — “While crime as a whole remains flat, the District of Columbia has experienced a spike in violent crime in 2015, similar to what is happening in cities across the country – from Los Angeles to Milwaukee to New York.” This is followed by typically vague platitudes: “I want you to know that my Administration is working around the clock to prevent crime, respond swiftly when it happens, and hold criminals accountable.” Oh, okay then! I guess everything’s under control. She goes on to tell us about the frequent meetings she held and apparently the chief of police even hosted a summit! By gum, I’m sure those criminals are on the run now.
    Perhaps my favorite line: “We are also working hard to close cases: we will find and arrest individuals that commit violent crime.” In other words, you’re doing your job? Somebody buy these people a cookie!
    “Most importantly, we are listening to the residents of DC. Remember, during an emergency, you should call 911.” …and be prepared to wait on hold from 5 to 15 minutes.
    I might be disappointed if this wasn’t entirely expected.

  • Anonamom

    Today I was sitting waiting for a case in the family court and overheard a lady on the phone; she was saying how she understood that so-and-so was on the run, and although she wanted no part of any of that, she was looking out for him. The whole “snitch” issue is way bigger than I think some people think. There are dangerous people on the streets and people know exactly where they are, and yet don’t want to be snitches. Our community won’t turn around until the tipping point has been reached and people decide to take back their community from the criminals. I applaud this commissior and his attempts to call attention to the issues.

  • TheParkView

    Is an @ANC2F commissioner doing the work of @ANC6E reps Chapple/Wiggins for free?

    • pwedz

      all ANC work is for free, regardless of SMD ;)

  • Anonymouse

    Here’s the irony:

    On the one hand, people want arrests made for quality of life issues like public weed smoking, drinking or urinating in public, gambling, etc.

    On the other hand, people don’t want young black males being put into the criminal justice system or being arrested for minor quality of life issues.

    Can’t have it both ways.

    • saf

      On the third hand, people don’t want to be arrested for drinking in public because they are young, white, and OBVIOUSLY harmless and this is therefore not a quality of life issue.

      • pwedz

        right lol — free our kick ball/volley ball brothers and sisters !!!! good responsible people should be able to drink in public parks haha

  • Shaw11

    Charlie is great and super responsive to community issues. He actually takes the time to listen. Great statement!

  • crin

    Crime is up because of anger over Michael Brown and other high profile African-American deaths by cops combined with synthetic drug surge. Double whammy and that could explain why urban crime is up nationally and not just in DC. Anger and easy drugs. Chronic underemployment doesn’t help either, but that’s not new unfortunately.

  • Sean

    The mayor is doing what she can. Rather than attack her why don’t you ask how we can be a part of the solution? Are you sharing with your constituents the many ways (including anonymous) they can report crime and suspicious behavior.


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