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DC Police Union “Don’t be deceived by this administration’s (Synthetic) Reefer Madness”

by Prince Of Petworth August 3, 2015 at 4:30 pm 40 Comments


Thanks to all who sent emails about the DC Police Union’s Synthetic Marijuana: The Red Herring for DC’s Spike in Crime:

“After another violent week in D.C., five more people have been murdered, bringing this year’s total homicides to 84. The District is now on pace to see yearly totals we have not seen since 2008. The increasing murders aren’t the only problem. Both violent crime and property crime are following the same trends. The media has turned to the Chief and the Mayor for answers, and they’ll both tell you the same line: Synthetic marijuana is on the rise and causing unchecked violence. What they won’t show you is any data that supports that position. No arrest stats, no seizures of the nefarious product, no statistics showing how the rise in use correlates to the violence, or even that there’s any rise in use in the first place. They’ll just give you some anecdotal evidence of a handful of overdoses, an increase in ambulance trips to the ER, and some stories of bizarre behavior exhibited by users (which is akin to users of PCP―a notorious D.C. street drug). After describing the irrational actions of users, the administration then leaps to the conclusion that this is the reason that thefts, robberies, burglaries, assaults, and even murders are skyrocketing. So the question is this: How could these issues be so intertwined? Well, the D.C. Police Union doesn’t believe they are.

The story of synthetic marijuana as the catalyst for epidemic violence is a convenient one, but a fallacy none the less. What’s a more likely scenario? That MPD is understaffed and has been abruptly stripped of 125 officers who took a proactive, tactical and learned approach to making thousands of arrests per year, and now crime and violence is filling this new void? Or is it that some chemical sold in shady corner stores has turned the entire city into homicidal maniacs? You be the judge. And the next time someone tells you the problem is synthetic marijuana, ask for the stats and research. Don’t be deceived by this administration’s (Synthetic) Reefer Madness.”

Read the full post here.

  • jim_ed

    Good for them. There likely is an increase in erratic behavior from the synthetic drugs being taken, but even a cursory look at the victims and perpetrators of almost all of the recent murders don’t point a finger at them. A far more likely answer is our court system’s complete unwillingness to punish people who are previously caught in DC carrying guns.

  • jdc

    Well done. I was getting sick of the all-too-convenient “blame it on Scooby Snax” bit.

    • Keefer

      Yep it is still very much Heroine where I live, and it is the dealers who are violent not the users

  • DCDude

    People can complain about the jump outs and other tactics used by the plain clothes street crime unit, but the truth is that they were effective. Hundreds of solid arrests were made by the unit and street level thugs had real reason to look over their shoulders. I rarely agree with DC FOP, for the most part they adopted a policy of simply being disagreeable, especially under Bauman. But, they are right on this one. Lanier and Bowser need to rethink their decision to kill the street crime unit. There is a small, yet determined, and totally lawless group of people in DC who are once again terrorizing the city.

    • GeeD

      Thanks you for this. The street crime units were canned to win cheap political points and I don’t think MPD even utilizes unmarked vehicle for patrol and incident response. The cops can do the job but rthe “Just Say No to Cops” phase isn’t allowing it.

      • anon

        Criminals can see the always-on blue lights from blocks away. No unmarked units, and no stealth abilities.

        • sproc

          As an avowed non-criminal (who probably broke who knows how many federal and local laws just on my way home, but that’s different problem), I’m quite fond of the blue lights. I definitely appreciate the need for an unmarked response team, though.

    • PewPew

      Time to bring the jump outs and aggressive policing back in full force. In fact I want them to become MORE aggressive. Make it abundantly clear, this city is safe for no criminal.

  • Derek

    Half of the post is likely correct: synthetic marijuana is unlikely to be the cause of any increase in crime. We don’t even know if the use of synthetic marijuana has increased, much less whether there is any causal relationship between use and crime. I’ve been skeptical and the police union is correct to point that out.

    But they’re substituting one spurious cause with another. It’s plausible that overall officer attrition has something to do with the increase, but I find the idea that a minor department re-org has much if anything to do with the increase in crime (but I have no doubt there are a lot of upset former vice cops with an axe to grind). Crime is way up in Baltimore. Is eliminating the vice units in DC the cause for that too? Crime increases and decreases have causal relationships with much broader variables. My guess is that the increases in crime in DC and Baltimore are caused by the same thing (I have no idea what that is).

    So good for the Union for pointing out the Mayor’s specious argument. Bad for the Union for seizing an opportunity to do the same thing.

    • anon

      Vice units worked the same blocks, same streets, and knew the suspects. The re-org into a city-wide unit (with reduced manpower from the district vice units) that is, so far, more intent on bragging about the 110+ prostitution arrests than dealing with violent crime, does not have the local knowledge, experience, or focus.

    • tom

      That’s an important point about crime being up nationally. That does contradict the MPD’s talk of this being due to changes in policing. But, there has also been a national current to de-emphasize aggressive policing (at least in liberal democratic controlled cities), so it doesn’t disprove it altogether either.

      Unfortunately, as with all complex social issues, we will never truly be able to study this issue “scientifically”. Instead we will fall back on ideology and cherry picked statistics. Liberals will dismiss this as media hype and make vague assertions about poverty being the real driver. Conservatives will conclude that this is clearly the result of lax policing/thug empowerment and Al Sharpton.

      • sproc

        +1, both as a liberal and a social scientist.

    • Hypothesis

      My suggestion as to why crime is up:
      It stems from the general lack of respect people of color (mainly young black males) are shown in our country. And this has been highlighted abundantly in the media over the past year.
      When someone perceives the system has no respect or room for them then they will act accordingly.

  • mpdpop

    This is, as far as I see, a product of removing plainclothes vice units from all the districts. Criminals know they are no longer susceptible to unmarked units focusing on local crime. The Chief can have her centralized units — they don’t have the focus on local problems or the experience of working the same blocks all the time.

    My neighborhood, Chevy Chase, had 12 gun robberies in the past week or so. As soon as the police released a lookout for a possible suspect, the robberies stopped. This is calculated violence, not the result of scooby snax.

    The Mayor and Chief need to rethink the strategy of blaming street drugs for this problem: we all know that is not true.

    • PewPew

      It’s likely a handful of people. Have you noticed the consistent description and appearance in videos.
      Black male, six foot, with dreadlocks. Every single time. This is some new gang operating because there is a consistent look to these violent criminals.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I can’t help but point out that I for the first time since subscribing to the MPD alerts about 6 months ago saw a lookout for 2 white males, 5’10-6’0, both 150-165 pounds, one with long ponytail for a robbery on the 1300 block of Irving St this past weekend. I’ll grant that it would be an understatement to call that a rarity, but, well, yeah, that happened.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Also, the mayor’s plans to build more affordable housing are just that – plans. Aside from technicalities of what is labelled as “affordable” in relation to concepts like percentages of area median income–which are completely irrelevant to very poor people–we have far fewer units that very poor people can actually afford now than we have anytime in recent memory. To whatever extent the residents of affordable housing units may be contributing to base levels of violent crime, it is quite a strange notion that increases in affordable housing–which have not yet even come into existence–are responsible for increases in crime is kind of an odd one.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Sorry, posted in wrong place, not in response to the above.

  • anon

    but jack evans told us it was synthetic marijuana so it must be true

  • petworther

    I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I absolutely believe synthetics are a problem. As the articles already reference in many posts here document they are dangerous and cheap and policing is problematic because of their questionable legality. Cracking down on this trend is important. And while cracking down on other drugs is possible through existing statutes, synthetics require special legal attention.
    On the other hand I don’t think most of the street violence is caused by synthetics. It’s simply poor management and poor policing. The synthetics drug act is good, but the administration cannot use that as a scapegoat for their problems.

    • fka Shawess

      I think this is exactly right. Clearly synthetic drugs are a problem, but to consider them the only problem and to blame the increased crime entirely on them seems far too simplistic.

  • jdegg

    This may sound a little crazy but….

    1992 was year that the birth rate spiked to the highest number since the baby boom. It had been on the rise for awhile and dropped off slowly in the years since. The young men born in 1992 are now 23 years old. Is it possible that there are simply are more potential shooters on the street now than there were five years ago?

    (Side note: the birth rate spiked again in about 2010.)

    • Petworther

      Yes, that is crazy. There is no causal link here.
      – an economist

      • jdegg

        True. But no causal link with synthetic drugs either.

        PS. I got this idea from Freakonomics.

        • Anone

          It’s clear where you got the idea, but why is age 23 the magical shooter age?

        • Capitol Hill NE

          That particular Freakonomics study turned out to have flaws. It would be nice if newer editions of Freakonomics had an errata on that one.
          There was a coding error that on its own weakens the results by at least one half. The results arguably (lots of back and forth on this) do not hold if you consider different but plausible ways of looking at the problem. Search for example for “Foote and Goetz”.

      • Neighbor

        Why is this crazy, exactly? This obviously can’t be causal, but a spike in population of the most likely to murder demographic (young adults, 18-24) would be presumed to raise the total number of murders committed assuming no significant change to the murder rate over recent years prior. I understand the alarm behind the rise of murders, but are folks controlling for other factors known to correlate highly with murder rates?

  • Anonymous

    I blame the Mayor and Police. It’s obvious to me that the criminals are more brazen than ever. They know they won’t get caught or aren’t afraid of going to jail. I give Bowser high marks for her short time in office except for crime. She has been awful on crime and enforcement.

    • PewPew

      The problem is she is for the one thing that brings more violent criminals onto DC streets: low income “affordable” housing. DC needs more police and less affordable housing. Middle class and up people who can afford market rate are not the source of violent crime in this city.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I think you might be surprised by the number of crimes committed by people who live in houses owned by elder members of said criminals’ families. I’m not sure whether or not it is the majority (I suspect not), but the proportion is definitely much further from zero than many here seem to believe. I briefly lived next door to a guy who was probably dealing drugs and definitely dog fighting several years ago when the owner of the house passed away and her grandson inherited it and moved in (he later cashed out to the tune of about $650K on a house his grandmother bought in the 1950’s).

        • HaileUnlikely

          Also, the mayor’s plans to build more affordable housing are just that – plans. Aside from technicalities of what is labelled as “affordable” in relation to concepts like percentages of area median income–which are completely irrelevant to very poor people–we have far fewer units that very poor people can actually afford now than we have anytime in recent memory. To whatever extent the residents of affordable housing units may be contributing to base levels of violent crime, it is quite a strange notion that increases in affordable housing–which have not yet even come into existence–are responsible for increases in crime is kind of an odd one.

      • EckingtonDoodle

        Market rate in DC according to Zillow is $486,300. This is well above middle class. I’m one of the “affordable housing violent criminals” you are speaking of…I’m a teacher. To be able to afford an affordable housing 1 bedroom condo in DC you need to earn at least 45K a year and be vetted by a lawyer, undergo a thorough financial review and credit check. I highly doubt any violent criminals are going through the laborious process that is required of homebuyers going through affordable housing programs. None of the people in my homebuyer class could be even considered criminals, much less violent criminals. Your argument is the sanitized and modern version of redlining.

  • PSA 407

    I don’t believe synthetic drugs is the only reason why we are seeing so much violence in the District. In my opinion, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier are not being honest with DC residents. They are just telling us this because DC residents are up in arms about the violence in the city. 7 men kidnapped another man and sexually assaulted him last Friday night on 14th Street, NW. I doubt that synthetic drugs had anything to do with this. Crime is so bad in Baltimore, the Feds have stepped in to assist the Baltimore Police Department.

  • PewPew

    We have a shortage of police, it does in fact need to be filled. However, the synthetic drugs are a problem. They are two related problems.
    My hope is the shortage gets addressed in the next year and we have more cops around the neighborhoods at all hours. Likewise I want the SA to take a more aggressive stance with sentencing violent offenders. For violent crimes, no reduction in time. You go to prison for a very long time if you commit any violent act. No matter the age. I have no problem sending violent juveniles to adult prison.

    • anon

      You may not have a problem with it, but most studies done on the issue show that sending juveniles to adult prisons increases crime in the long run. You take a person, whom you might have turned around and stopped from committing any more crime, and send them to crime school. They come out with no skills and no job prospects, no options other than to commit more crimes. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that our society loves to punish people with more than prison. Try getting any type of job, anything, with a criminal record. Even a non-violent one. Its your type of knee-jerk reaction that has led us to have more violent crime and more people in prison that every industrialized/advanced/western (whatever you want to call it) nation.

      • JL

        They can be turned around while they serve their very long jail sentence. Everyone has a choice. If someone chooses to commit a crime then that is their choice. It comes with consequences. I have no sympathy for murderers and violent criminals who come out of prison and have a hard time getting a job. Tough sh*t.

  • It is as I thought that the Police Chief and mayor was stretching the truth about the rise in crime in DC. And the same for traffic management in the city. All stems back to poor decision making by the Chief.

  • Brett M

    There’s no evidence the rise in crime, which actually has been rising continuously since Chief Lanier began, is tied to “synthetic drugs.”

    Lanier just wants to take the blame off herself after 8 years without results. Tell the Mayor and your Councilman to replace Lanier.

  • Anonymous
  • JL

    Good for the cops for pointing out the obvious. This fake weed crap seems conveniently easy to gloss over the rise in hyper violent crime lately that no one seems to have an idea why it’s happening. If anything we do need more police. We need undercover cops, more vice teams and jump out squads. Then the courts need to be held accountable to put these people in jail where they need to stay for a long, long time. As someone also brought up the other day, maybe the new Attorney General needs to be also held accountable to making sure these people don’t just get slaps on the wrist. The mayor had better understand people are not going to put up with this crap.


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