The D.C. police department has released preliminary statistics on the controversial practice of arresting drivers whose vehicles are unregistered or have expired registration. The numbers indicate that the practice is more widespread than previously thought, with several arrests per day on average.
In the one-year period starting Oct. 1, 2009, records indicate that 2,163 persons were arrested in the District for expired tags. In the subsequent year, ending in September, arrests declined dramatically, to 1,334. The numbers include arrests made by all law enforcement agencies in the city, not just the Metropolitan Police Department.
Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said department analysts are still reviewing the data, which “may be overstated, and may be revised downward in the coming days.”
The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to end arrests for expired tags on a temporary basis while lawmakers decide whether to continue a policy that has been in place for decades.
The initial numbers do not directly speak to whether expired-tag arrests have been a valuable tool for removing dangerous criminals from the streets. Crump said that analysts are still sorting out which registration arrests are accompanied by the filing of other charges. But she notes that only a small portion of arrestees were “locked up” — that is, booked then taken to the central cell block for Superior Court arraignment.
In the 2009-2010 period, 8 percent of arrestees were locked up — about 170. In the 2010-2011 period, that fell to 6 percent — about 80.
The remainder would either be taken to a district station then released on personal recognizance for a court date or allowed to “post and forfeit” — that is, pay a fine and waive the court date. The number of arrests also include “tickets in lieu of arrest,” where an offender isn’t taken into immediate custody but is issued a criminal citation (called a 61-D) and required to report to a police station for booking within 15 days.