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Friday Question of the Day – Thoughts on the Mayor’s “Safer, Stronger DC”?

by Prince Of Petworth August 27, 2015 at 10:22 pm 66 Comments


There’s been a lot of talk, understandably, here about crime lately so I wanted to know what folks thought about the Mayor’s new Safer, Stronger DC legislative campaign? The highlights are above but you can read a more complete version in the PDF below:

public_safety_agenda (PDF)

From the Mayor:

“Dear Washingtonians,

The District has lost the lives of 103 residents to homicide in 2015. Every life is precious, every loss is tragic. And we do not sit idly by as our community suffers.

Over the past few weeks, I have updated you on the increase in violent crime in DC, and what my Administration is doing to address it. We have put more police officers on our streets, walking beats. With the support of the community, we have ramped up our efforts to find and arrest criminals, resulting in a higher crime closure rate than most cities our size. We developed new strategies to fight synthetic drugs. And we launched initiatives to strengthen the relationship between MPD officers and the community – including our Body Worn Camera program.

I want to thank my public safety team and our law enforcement officers, who are working around the clock to keep DC safe.

We are acting with vigor and we are making progress. And there is more we will do. Today, I announced a public safety agenda that will make DC safer and stronger. The agenda, which you can view HERE, includes a number of legislative and administrative measures that will help us prevent crime, and address crime when it happens. Be sure to continue to check mayor.dc.gov/saferstronger for updates.

We will:

Continue to have more police officers patrolling the streets – by using overtime and by hiring civilians to perform administrative tasks so that officers are walking beats and not filing paperwork.
Give the police new tools to address crime, including better access to data and evidence to catch violent criminals. And create financial incentives for business, churches and homeowners to install security cameras, which will deter crime and identify criminals.
Increase penalties for anyone who commits a violent crime in our public transit system, or at our parks and rec centers.
And strengthen our laws so that convicted criminals are less likely to return to the community and commit another violent crime.

There have been erroneous media reports about what my proposal will and will not do. I want to be clear about what I mean by making sure violent criminals do not have an opportunity to repeatedly harm our neighborhoods:

If a violent criminal is on pretrial supervision and violates a stay away order or allows his or her GPS bracelet to be damaged or to go uncharged, he or she can be held for at least 72 hours.
If a violent convict is released early under supervision, their living quarters will be subject to searches for illegal guns.
And if a violent convict commits another violent crime, he or she will have a higher standard of proof that they are not a danger to neighborhoods while awaiting trial.

These measures are targeted to violent individuals who have been convicted or arrested for crimes like murder, armed robbery, and sexual assault. The District is not a stop-and-frisk city, and we are not going to become one.

I recognize that fighting crime is only part of the equation. That is why my agenda includes more support for communities that have seen significant violence. In the coming week, we will initiate a comprehensive, neighborhood-focused approach to offer individualized family services in neighborhoods afflicted by violence – like Congress Heights, Benning Terrace and Woodland Terrace. We will also offer micro grants to community organizations, individuals, and nonprofits to become part of this effort. These grants will be driven by community needs and priorities.

We also know that some neighborhoods have more obstacles to accessing opportunities than others. That is why, today, I announced that we will reopen the former Malcolm X Elementary School in Congress Heights as a temporary pop-up center. We will work with community leaders to ensure that the space meets the needs of the residents. This former place of learning will be revived as an opportunity center -where people can overcome obstacles by gaining access to services like job training, health and wellness programs, and recreation.

What I have outlined above is only a part of my agenda. I will also bring proposals to the Council that will increase the employment readiness of our returning citizens, and will strengthen police-community relations – by doing things like eliminating pre-textual traffic stops, and amending the misdemeanor assault on a police officer law.

You can expect to hear more in the coming weeks. When Councilmembers return on September 15, I will ask them to give my proposals their full consideration. I do not expect the Council to adopt my proposals word-for-word – but I do expect immediate action to safeguard our residents. And I will reach out to you to enlist your support as well.

Everything in my agenda is about making our city safer and stronger. In all that we do, we will continue to create pathways to the middle class. When people have a choice, they choose opportunity – they choose hope. And there is no better way to fight crime than by bringing opportunity and hope to every corner of Washington, DC.

Together, we will continue to make the District a safer place to live, work and play.

Mayor Muriel Bowser”

  • d

    It’s a start, but why is the plan to increase penalties for crimes committed on public transit, parks, and rec centers and not for violent crime anywhere? Genuinely curious because I don’t know.

    Also, why not expand the use of CCTV cameras? Or at least expand their use in recent hot-spots of violence (Shaw, Park View, Petworth, Congress Heights, etc.)? The tech and prices are at a point where you can blanket these areas in high-res recordings and effectively manage them remotely. Maybe even with off-the-shelf hardware. I realize civil libertarians would be up in arms, but really the amount of data collected would mean that no one should be sifting through the recordings unless there is a violent crime or another specific reason to. MPD or whichever agency manages it could institute a policy preventing their use without a complaint, police report, and/or warrant. Learn best practices from how London handles its CCTV system. Just a thought.

    • power of flight

      Violent crimes on public transit, parks, and rec centers are much more disruptive to a sense of public safety and puts more people in danger.

    • Emily

      Stopping violence that is between people who are involved in gangs and/or selling drugs, in locations that don’t present a danger to other people, is a lower priority than other types of violence. Public transit, parks, and rec centers are a proxy for that.

    • jonah

      At the June or July Fourth District meeting Chief Lanier talked a bit about cameras and I think it may answer your question. There were a few things. One mounted stationary cameras are movable but requires resources and data to move. Mounted movable cameras are good to decrease crime in that area, but MPD finds it moves just a block or two away out of sight. Lastly street light mounted cameras give a great overhead view but often are too high and at a poor angle to get details like capturing a face. She also announced, at least it was news to me, that they have a network of home and business cameras at street level that they have owners permission to use if a crime took place nearby. I believe part of their grant program to provide more of these would be to add to this meshed network and potentially fill in gaps in higher crime areas.

      • d

        Thank you. Very insightful.

  • andy

    What the plan suggests is that most of the homicides and violent crimes are committed by prior offenders, either reoffending convicts or those under pretrial supervision having committed but not been convicted of involvement in crime. Also, gun involvement is paramount.

    If that is true, give us breakouts. How many 2015 murders were committed by past violent offenders, how many were committed by men/women under pretrial supervision, and other relevant categories.

    And also highlight how many were with guns.

    I want to know how much of this plan gets at how much of the problem.

    • jim_ed

      Lanier addressed this at length two days ago. From her email:
      – At least 22 of our homicide arrestees were under supervision pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the crime. This is a substantial increase from the 15 under supervision we had all of 2014.
      – At least 20 of our homicide victims were under supervision pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the crime.
      – 10 individuals involved in homicides this year had prior homicide charges.
      – Almost half, or 45%, of the homicide arrestees had prior gun-related arrests in DC (compared to 27% in 2014); meaning nearly half of the persons responsible for these homicides had previously been arrested for carrying or using illegal guns in the commission of a crime.
      – And when it comes to illegal guns, like the national trend, we too are seeing more instances in which multiple guns or high capacity magazines were involved or recovered.

    • andy

      To me this says that it really is a problem of more policing. The cops need to know what is going on in the lives of those specific individuals most likely to shoot each other, which seems like a really narrow set of people. That is definitely not stop and frisk type stuff – seems like intel work.

  • Dave g

    You can make all the plans in the world. But if the cops don’t enforce or do anything. It’s just ink on paper. Let’s call a peach a peach and just say it for what it is. No plan would be needed if cops were on the streets, interacting with the community and enforcing the law. The best detetrant to crime is a good police force at the most basic level. I think the city has made every excuse this year and we’ve heard a lot, but the button line is no excuse would be needed if the cops were on the streets interacting with the community and enforcing laws. Would this stop everything? Not at all, but it’s this basic foundation we are missing. Once we have that you can build the rest.

    • Copwatch

      Exactly. This stood out to me the most:

      “Continue to have more police officers patrolling the streets – by using overtime and by hiring civilians to perform administrative tasks so that officers are walking beats and not filing paperwork.
      Give the police new tools to address crime, including better access to data and evidence to catch violent criminals.”

      So basically, the police union secured more unwarranted overtime, and cushier cruisers with more computers from which to sit around playing Farmville and watching porn.

    • MMMkay

      “No plan would be needed if cops were on the streets, interacting with the community and enforcing the law. ”

      I’m not sure I get your point. Isn’t that exactly what this plan entails? Point 1 is “put more officers on the streets.” Point 5 is interacting with the community.

      • Dave g

        My point was her plan seems to detail the basic of what a police force should have been doing in the first place. If the cops were walking the neighborhoods at night. Like say up and down the street by the shaw metro, interacting with the community and not in cars in alleys or a fixed tent which was blocks from the violence, than maybe some, just some, of this would have been deterred.

        I live on U street, cops hide in my alley and play on iPads every night, far enough from the street hat hey can’t see a thing. This is just one example, I could give hundreds.

        • jonah

          I go to a lot of PSA and CAC meetings in the Fourth District (Petworth and north). I find these meetings answer a lot of similar questions and definitely recommend them. There are real trade offs with police on foot vs police in cars. Police on foot patrol are great, I love seeing them in my neighborhood, but can not respond as quickly to a crime blocks away as someone in a car. So you get higher visible presence at the possible risk of lower response times and I would guess arrests. A foot patrol doesn’t do much if someone jumps in a car. The other issue they often share is that a foot patrol officer can’t be as effective in poor weather. If it is raining they may duck inside a storefront. Everything I have heard about patrols in the fourth district say they are attempting to balance car patrols, with bike/segway patrols, with foot patrols. Each has benefits and each has areas where they are less effective.

          • Anon

            The fourth district is also the largest geographically. I think that is a major challenge and I hope the distribution of resources reflect that. We certainly don’t see MPD as often as they are seen in other wards. I’ve lived in several.

    • Anon MPD

      Peach here.

      So allow me to tell you about my day at work. I go to work and there’s like 24 people working for my shift. On paper, there is probably 45, but they’re counting Crime Suppression and station personnel. So of those 24, maybe 15 people are on fixed posts, which means they can’t go anywhere. Now, the community likes this because they get the illusion of safety. And yes, if I’m told I have to sit on a block to stop crime, which is a terrible strategy, then I’m going to be pissed and probably be on Level 215 on Candy Crush. Oh, also these details are supposed to be face to face, meaning that I can’t go home until the next shift arrives whenever they feel like it to relieve me. And MPD doesn’t sign overtime slips, so that’s awesome.

      So if I’m lucky enough to not be one of the 80% of officers stuck in one place, then I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off answering all of the radio runs that are stacking up because no one is allowed to leave their detail.

      Please enlighten me on how I can better enforce the law and/or interact with the community. We don’t want more overtime. Working 16 hours a day gets old really quickly. We need more officers. Especially if you want cops to sit in one place to make you feel safer, and you want cops responding to your 911 call in a reasonable time, and you want cops walking a beat.

      • textdoc

        Who’s the best person for PoPville readers (and others) to contact to lobby against fixed posts — Lanier?

        • sunnytime

          I’m with textdoc – I would like to get involved!

        • Anon MPD

          To be completely honest? I’m not sure. The challenge is that these are the Chief’s tactics or the District Commander’s which she supports, so she’s not going to reverse her decision based on your input. If anything, MPD is doubling down on some of these terrible tactics. I’d probably attend the local district meetings and weigh in. I’d email the union, who actually is trying to get more officers out working, and then maybe council members or the mayor.

          A challenge is that the police will say that they don’t want to talk tactics, and council members and the Mayor will not want to challenge certain tactics. I may only have a bachelors degree, but even Ray Charles could see that this isn’t working and it simply pushes stuff around the corner where that cop can’t even go to.

          • sunnytime

            Thanks, as usual, for your perspective! And for your daily contributions to our city too!

          • jonah

            Thanks for being here Anon MPD. For others looking for ways to be heard I find my PSA (small service area within a district) meeting is so poorly attended that if I come with an issue it often gets addressed. It can be hard to find info about local PSA meetings but if you join your local MPD district listserv they typically announce them with varying levels of advanced notice. If you want to find your district listserv MPD has a page with them here: http://mpdc.dc.gov/node/211702

  • MRD

    Why is it that everything Bowser says sounds like it’s coming from a fourth grader? Very earnest but mostly platitudes.

    • timmyp

      That’s exactly how her debates were while running for Mayor. I couldn’t understand how so many people voted for her when she just gave platitude after platitude. Yes, Catania has a rep. for not getting along with others but also has a rep for getting things done. Why so many people cared about what wouldn’t really affect them is beyond me?

      • JohnH

        She’s about as politician as politicians come. Reminds me of that Parks N Rec episode with the robotic congressman.

    • MarkQ

      Different strokes… I didn’t support her candidacy, but I am finding her style to be earnest and cautious, striking just the right tones in all communities across the city. All politicians speak in platitudes (“Make America Great Again”).. like the Geico commercials, it’s what they do.

  • Austin Pearl

    It still doesn’t get to the single largest root cause of the problem: Washington, D.C. Has become an island of drug dealing permissibility between MD and VA–and the dealers know it. This in turn brings loitering, trash, dice games, disputes over money and turf, and violence. When the dealers drive in from MD as do a huge number of their clients, you know you have a problem. I have specific evidence and instances demonstrating not having vice squad inhibits our ability to crack down on this problem that I cannot post on an open forum. But really, anyone with open eyes knows street level dealing is STILL a huge problem in the district. I write ‘still’ in caps because our police chief would have us believe society has somehow moved past this as a problem. Well, what do your own eyes tell you? We are essentially being held hostage by her poor policy decision and refusal to backtrack. Ditto our Mayor. Note how much of their language has been geared towards convincing the public that removal of vice squad is NOT the problem–including a recent cherry picked list of anecdotes that magically all pointed to domestic violence. Not only were the examples cherry picked to prove a point, but the date they cited for the shutdown of vice squad (June) wasn’t even accurate for half the city (half the wards lost vice in December). Meanwhile, their justification for originally getting rid of vice was weak to begin with–that modern drug dealing happens over the Internet! Even if that were true, it would be outside MPDs jurisdiction 99% of the time. Even if you buy the synthetic marijuana argument, how would you familiarize yourself with the problem and try to make undercover buys without vice units? Plainclothesed officers literally have to see the activity to make an arrest! What are the chances of that happening if they’re driving around with giant blue lights on their roof? Bottom line: hugely unimpressed that we continue to be held hostage as a city because of one of the most egregious policy decisions I have seen in a long time. Admit it was a mistake now, and just maybe the public will forget by the time elections come around.

    • Shaw Neighbor

      I stopped by the MPD tent yesterday at 6th and O. Apparently police regulations prohibit officers from performing any plainclothes operations at all. So, you can’t have an officer observing a park and looking out for people smoking weed in front of our kids. Lights are required to be used on cars (the blue lights) so criminals can see the cops coming from blocks away. Officers are no longer allowed to use the scent of marijuana as probable cause to search someone- even though smoking is not legal in public. As a result, criminals no longer fear intrusion in their activities by cops. Every packs a gun- and gun fights breakout over minor issues. That’s what’s happening in our city to day. DC voters didn’t vote for the government to stop enforcing all marijuana laws. They didn’t vote for smoking in public. They approved smoking in private homes and small amounts for possession. We are not getting the laws that we passed- we’re getting something much more extreme. And cops have been stripped of their ability to police.

      • eggs

        “Police regulations” – is this specifically DC police regulations? Or a national rule/law? I don’t know anything about this, but that part surprised me.

      • Copwatch

        Essentially, if you take one “tool” away from a cop, they shut down and stop working altogether.

      • Low Headways

        “We are not getting the laws that we passed- we’re getting something much more extreme”

        Not sure how duly-passed and authorized legalization can be characterized as “more extreme” than anything else when it’s become more like a soft decriminalization, thanks to idiots like Andy Harris and the rest of the bible brigade. It’s not taxed nor regulated nor sold. You want to end “street dealing?” Allow it to be sold in shops.

        As for ” Officers are no longer allowed to use the scent of marijuana as probable cause to search someone- even though smoking is not legal in public…criminals no longer fear intrusion in their activities by cops”: well, now neither do normal people. Smells of cigarette smoke and pot smoke and booze don’t require you to be actively consuming them to linger on and around you.

        And getting high in your own home before going for a walk should not somehow be turned into probable cause by overpolicing.

        • Shaw resident

          And here you get the two different realities that currently co-exist: (1) Otherwise law abiding stable people getting high once in a while in their homes and having the smell linger on them when they go for a walk vs. (2) a group of people standing on a corner openly smoking pot such that you can smell the actual smoke (not just a lingering odor) 20 yards away (which happens in our neighborhood daily). In the second case, do you really think there’s no probable cause?

        • textdoc

          I think Shaw Neighbor is saying that the de facto _result_ is in some ways more extreme — not because of D.C.’s legalization of marijuana per se, but because of the elimination of plainclothes vice cops. (Or maybe because of some combination of the two.)
          “You want to end ‘street dealing’? Allow it to be sold in shops.” That would be great, except Andy Harris has tied D.C.’s hands and made this impossible.

      • jcm

        I think you must have misunderstood the officers. MPD still has and uses plainclothes police and unmarked cars.

      • Anon MPD

        I would recommend that folks start paying more attention to legislation proposed and debated in Council. The legislation proposed by CM Grosso and Wells specifically eliminated the odor of marijuana as probable cause of a crime. This was strongly supported by the ACLU and other advocates. The only way we were able to prohibit public consumption was to get Mendelson behind it. But to be clear, if an officer smells burning marijuana and sees someone smoking, that is sufficient to stop someone, conduct a field test of the substance, and arrest if it is marijuana.

    • jonah

      If you have evidence you should reach out to the Office of the Attorney General in addition to MPD. OAG does deal with quality of life issues and can pursue civil cases sometimes in a situation where MPD does not have enough for a criminal conviction. Think working with property owners to manage poor tenants, clean up or secure lots that are being used for illegal activities, etc. OAG has been very responsive in my experiences and is regularly attending community meetings asking residents to utilize their services. Contact information can be found on their site: http://oag.dc.gov/

  • Ward 1 Anonymous

    It’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve long suspected she has been soft on crime. Yesterday’s press conference only reinforced that. It struck me as either a very naive plan or one in which she is trying to look like she is doing something, but not doing much. I don’t care about stats. My neighborhood has become less safe under Bowser and Nadeau. I need to see results. I want to feel safe. People get assaulted by my house all the time. MPD does very little. Nothing changes. I expect nothing to change this time either. Ive lost faith in MPD and am close to losing faith in the mayor.

    • charlie

      You are obviously the problem. Ward 1 does not have a homicide problem. If you say that 100 times before you go to bed the various robberies, breaking, muggings and shootings will stop.

  • Curious George

    I support Bowser 100%. Go for it!

  • Cari

    My wallet got stolen out of my office by some dude in a bucket hat who somehow breezed past security while she was giving this talk, so…

  • Dognonymous

    “Perpetrators will face 1.5 times the maximum jail sentence.” That’s nice, but 1.5 times 0 is still 0.

  • also anon

    Glad you posted this. The part about searching homes for illegal guns is what makes me wary. I’ve read other articles that the search can be unannounced. The idea of police just showing up at someone’s door and ransacking their house without probable cause makes me nervous. Slippery slope etc.

    • JTM

      “If a violent convict is released early under supervision, their living quarters will be subject to searches for illegal guns.”

      The ‘probable cause’ is that these are folks who are under supervision awaiting trial for violent crimes which they’ve been arrested for. What more do you want?

      • also anon

        Just because someone is arrested doesn’t mean they will be convicted of the crime. Moreover, an arrest for a violent crime does not mean someone has a cache of illegal weapons in their house.

        • Anonymouse

          It’s a person who HAS been convicted of a violent crime and who IS on parole/probation AND who has CONSENTED to the searches as part of the terms of their release on parole/probation.

          • Anon MPD

            Correct. The convicted felon has a choice to either agree to the potential search for guns, or stay in jail.

          • Los

            Thanks for the clarification. Otherwise (and boo on me for being lazy and not going to the source) that Bowser and MPD were advocating for random searches w/o PC

        • Anon MPD

          So these are people on parole or probation. For those on parole, it is even easier, because this intrusion would be in exchange for them getting their sentence reduced. California has this ability.

          The larger issue is how the implementation will work. For example, parole officers in that state are armed, which means MPD doesn’t need to escort them.

    • los

      I think is just a “bone” being thrown to show just how tough and serious they are about crime. This maneuver, I would argue, is highly unconstitutional and will probably result in litigation against the city.

      Bowser is a disgrace. You can almost pinpoint the increase in crime with her taking office. I’m very liberal/progressive, but every time I look at DC politics, I take a second look at the GOP.

    • Dan

      I believe laws already allow unannounced searches of those under court supervision, but I’m probably wrong.

  • Colhi

    When the police keep talking about the vice-squad issue, I have been wondering how much of pay differential there is for vice work vs walking the beat. Also, how much overtime to vice cops tend to make vs walking the beat. I keep seeing the Vice issue brought up over and over again, it reads to me like it was a much better assignment for the cops doing it but I’m not sure that I’ve seen any data that shows it was better for overall crime reduction.

  • Garper

    Seems like a political dog-and-pony show. Bowser’s probably banking on violent crime, particularly homicide, to slow now that school is back in session and temps are cooling off. When crime does decrease due to seasonal factors and not her new plan, the mayor almost certainly will take credit, while the underlying problems remain.

  • jcm

    I think it’s seems like a fairly measured response. I would have liked some detail on the number of officers currently on the force, and the number they want. I also would like som detail on how exactly these searches will work. Will they be carried out by unarmed probation officers? That doesn’t seem like a great idea. How many police will be used to accompany them?
    I’m glad that she is taking ownership of the situation, and I’m glad she isn’t completely freaking out and trashing civil liberties to address it.

  • Shawz

    One element not addressed in this plan is the severe shortage of back-end police work, that is, the detectives and prosecutors that catch criminals and prosecute after the fact, as well as the resources to hold criminals once they’ve been convicted. When my house was robbed a while back, it was several weeks before the police even began investigating (and even then they could not devote many resources to the investigation), at which point any relevant camera footage would have been gone, and leads would have gone cold. The fact that there’s virtually no chance that a person will be arrested for a property crime in DC unless they do it in front of a uniformed cop is infuriating and leads people to commit more severe crimes later on.

    The suggestion about installing a much more comprehensive network of CCTV cameras is also a great one. I know I would be more than happy to install such a camera outside my home and give the police free access to the footage, and I’m sure many of my neighbors would as well. Deterring and actually punishing crimes, including relatively minor things like package theft, vandalism, and car break-ins, would go a huge way toward improving the quality of life in high-crime neighborhoods. And there’s nothing anti-civil libertarian about filming a public street, there’s no expectation of privacy there.

    • jonah

      There is a program to have you install cameras and let MPD know which way it faces so they can come to you if a crime took place nearby. Definitely reach out to your local precinct and talk to them.

  • AdmsMgn

    I heard a WAMU report that the #BlackLivesMatter movement disrupted her press conference because they feel that poor black people will be singled out. That really bothered me and it seemed self-defeating for the protestors. I’ve seen news report after news report showing people in lower income areas complaining about the latest murder. I would think that law biding citizens would welcome a crackdown on crime in their neighborhood and safer playgrounds for their children.

    • JohnH

      One thing I will say is that it only takes a handful – it doesn’t mean that most black people agree with them. Obviously the more extreme people show up to events like these.

    • Anon

      Of the 103 homicides in the city, I am guessing about 95 percent of the people murdered were black? Those lives matter! You would think the protesters would want the city to crack down on crime to prevent more black lives being taken.

  • Kelly

    More empty rhetoric.

    Wednesday morning I was watching local news (ABC) before going to work and there was a segment on the Mayor showing up in SE the previous day at some event to discuss crime, and the news cameras caught half a dozen guys just standing there, blazing away. It looked like a cheech and chong movie for a second, and it was so obvious the onsite reporter actually commented on it how many people were smoking weed openly on the street and that the mayor was ~50 feet away. The camera also caught a couple guys openly drinking 40’s (uncovered, not in a bag).

    So there was our Mayor, with dozens of police in attendance and and lots of people smoking up and drinking in public and no one was arrested?

    I know MPD thinks that all crime lower than international drug smuggling is beneath them and a waste of their time, but it isn’t difficult to wonder why the criminal element in this town just doesn’t care, because they know there is a pretty good chance the police won’t do anything even if they catch them.

    • jonah

      I think generalities about police thinking something is a waste of their time is not tremendously helpful. I went on a neighborhood walk through with MPD, ANC Commissioners, and neighbors and we talked a lot about the two items, smoking and drinking. My take away was an arrest for drinking in public takes that officer off the street for several hours to do booking and paperwork, arrests for drinking in public is not a high priority (not saying it isn’t illegal) for the OAG to prosecute (Police can only make arrests, can’t force them to be tried), and that MPD at least in my neighborhood spend a significant amount of resources getting people into treatment centers rather than jail to address recidivism rates and to solve the underlying issue which arrests often do not do. If we agree that police lack resources to enforce everything then our communities need to prioritize prevention vs arrests. That likely means, in my opinion, that MPD recognizes that they are not the solution for drinking/smoking but are likely the best response to something like gun crime.

  • TOM

    Does anyone else see the irony of left-of-center DC yuppies who spend their workday bouncing between liberal blogs like Slate and Vox which are full of stories about mass incarceration and over-policing/systemic racism and then come to Popville to bemoan out of control street crime and the inability of the local police to control the situation.

    I count myself in that camp. I really don’t what to do about the situation. In my time in DC, I have had my car windows smashed and was jumped and robbed while walking in my own neighborhood. I have tons of friends who have experienced similar violence. I hate the fact that I still feel terrified to walk around large parts of central DC at night (and even during the day). I’m deeply troubled by some of the NYPD’s aggressive tactics (particularly in the Giuliani/Bloomberg era) and the hyper-gentrification. But, I love the fact that when I go there I always feel so much safer at night than I do in DC.

    I guess what I’m looking for the is the ability to “check my privilege” and bemoan gentrification, aggressive policing/mass incarceration from the comfort of a heavily gentrified and safe neighborhood. In the 80s, they used to have a name for people like me “limousine liberal.” But, the world hypocrite works just as well.

    How do we vigilantly police without over policing, how do we take repeat violent criminals off the streets without destroying misguided young lives? How do we target criminal hot spots without criminalizing whole communities? In theory it is easy, but in practice I just don’t know.

    • AdmsMgn

      I agree with you about feeling safer in NYC. What part of the city do you live in? I’ve been here 6 years and fortunately have never been jumped or had my car windows smashed. I used to live in upper NW off CT Ave and now in Adams Morgan. I only know of a few friends that have been attacked, most haven’t.

      Also, I regularly use the Columbia Heights and Woodley Park metro stations and am surprised that Woodley Park generally has a greater police presence out of the two and it’s usually the same officer!

    • mail

      lots of us feel exactly the way you just described. I was far more liberal when I lived in the suburbs and had never been a victim of violent crime. I’ve been jumped twice as a DC resident and now have no hesitation about crossing the street or turning around rather than walk past any young man who’s not dressed professionally. But I totally feel and understand the sentiment I’ve heard many times from people who say how insulting and demeaning it is to have people like me cross the street instead of walking past them. what am I supposed to do? I’ve been beaten badly twice when I didn’t do so, in one case requiring hospitalization. It really sucks.

      • HaileUnlikely

        It sucks for everyone, including you for having reason to feel fearful and for the 99.5% of young men who share a lot of the same physical characteristics as the guys who attacked you yet would never do any such thing. I’m an old white guy. I have a 16-year-old Godson from Togo who many find physically imposing – he is a very good high school basketball player and is built like one – it breaks my heart to think that he sees people go out of their way to avoid him, yet I sometimes do that with others as well.

        • mail

          yeah it breaks my heart too, and frankly 99.9% of the people who live in the public housing nearby are super friendly and not causing anyone any problems (they often walk by my house while I”m gardening on weekend mornings carrying food from a nearby soup kitchen and stop to chat, admire the garden, wish me a blessed day, etc). but nearly getting killed by a couple kids who jumped me without provocation just to beat someone up has left me extremely wary of young men who aren’t visibly professionals or howard university students. no doubt my behavior exacerbates feelings of disconnection and racial tension, but what am I supposed to do? this situation is at the core of why the current controversy about policing is so impossible and depressing.

          • anon

            One thing you can do is to stop feeling guilty about protecting yourself. You are doing what is smart and required in a place where being jumped and beaten on the streets is not only a real possibility but, as you and I and countless others have experienced, a reality. You’ll enlist me anytime to volunteer to help those who are less fortunate or to support public programs to do the same, but you will never convince me that I am wrong to avoid the areas, situations and persons who are similar to those in which I got my ass kicked for no damn reason. As a man, there have been countless situations in which walking behind a solitary female pedestrian, or approaching one, I have seen her do the same thing, turn and go a different direction or get out of the street quickly. She is doing that for the same reason, because it is much more likely that I am a threat to her.

      • Tom

        Yeah, profiling is an issue that I still spend a lot of time struggling with. My fiancé is African-American. I love him to death and am often upset at the though that anyone would treat him negatively on the basis of his race.

        And yet, when I’m walking alone around the city at night or a higher crime area during the day, I frequently become nervous when I see young, “thuggish looking” men and yes particularly when they are African-American. Try as I might, I just can’t control my emotions. Being attacked in my own neighborhood was the single most terrifying moment of my life.

        Rationally, I know profiling is very imprecise. ..at best. You can’t tell who is going to “be trouble”, but you can make an educated guess about who is very unlikely to be trouble. Walking past a group of young “thuggish” looking men is a terrible predictor that something bad is going to happen. In 99%+ of times it isn’t. But, walking passed a group of women or foreign tourists or families with a children or a Hill staffer or someone finishing up their shift at a restaurant and you can pretty much conclude with near certainty that everything is going to be fine. It’s the classic, most X aren’t Y, but most Y are X.

        I really don’t know what to do. I hate the idea that “non-professional” young black men are suspect until proven otherwise when walking alone at night. But, given the frequency and social context of random street crime in DC it is “mentally hard” not to do when walking around the city and having to make quick :real time” decisions with limited information.

  • jonah

    I find the comments on posts like these are often a bit diametric in that they are helpful or critical without solutions. I genuinely think there are some ways we can improve the community and feel as though we are doing more than complaining about MD drivers. I get the sense that the point of posting asking for feedback on city wide policy is to help voices be heard and for us to be engaged, rather than just demand people be fired. Here are some thoughts for anyone still around:

    1. It would be great to provide more coverage of resources that answer questions or help us engage on these issues away from our keyboards. How to find out which Ward, MPD District, PSA, ANC district you live in and the point of contact for each. PSA and CAC meetings are amazing resources for talking directly with MPD and community leaders and this would be a great forum for promoting them or at least awareness of what they are.

    2. Sharing information about how to get on MPD listservs, where to find real data about crime (daily arrest reports, daily crime reports, shot spotter reports), and comparable national data.

    3. Encouraging more people like Anon MPD on this thread to come talk with us, which may mean knowing in advance when a post will go up and commenters will be active. DC Water is super responsive and jumps in comments once someone tells them and I imagine other city agencies or at least knowledgable people would be equally responsive and helpful to this community.


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