Why I Declared a Crime Emergency
For the fourth time in my eight years as chief, I have declared a "crime emergency" in the District. This declaration was not in response to any one crime or crime pattern. Rather, it was a recognition that there has been a sharp increase in crime citywide in recent weeks and that the D.C. police department -- and our partners in community policing -- need to do something about it, and do it fast.
Fourteen homicides in the first 12 days of July. A 16 percent increase in robberies and a 14 percent rise in serious assaults over the past 30 days. Continued involvement of juveniles in crime, as both offenders and victims. While the statistics are not unprecedented in the District -- in fact, crime levels in general are the lowest they've been in decades -- they are troubling.
Technically, the crime emergency allows me to temporarily suspend scheduling provisions in our labor agreements. This gives our commanders flexibility to adjust schedules, ensuring that we have officers when and where they are needed in response to neighborhood crime patterns.
But beyond the details of scheduling, the crime emergency has to mean something far more profound and more lasting. It has to mean that each and every one of us -- police, government agencies, elected representatives, community leaders and residents -- is willing to rededicate ourselves to the safety of our neighborhoods. The Post said it in a July 13 editorial: The police "cannot do the job alone."
It will take a collective effort -- a collective sense of urgency and a collective will to get things done -- if we are to turn this situation around. It will take people doing things, large and small, to enhance the safety of our neighborhoods. Everything from reporting suspicious activity and getting involved in Neighborhood Watch and citizen patrols, to passing tougher laws and expanding meaningful opportunities for youth.
Declaring a crime emergency is only a short-term response. To have a real and lasting impact on crime, we need to come together as a city and tackle the tough issues at hand: education, families, poverty and the absolutely intolerable levels of crime in our African American communities. We need to stop talking, and start doing.
One thing is certain: If combating crime remains only a short-term government emergency, and not a long-term, community-wide commitment, then we will be right back confronting these very same issues for years to come.
-- Charles H. Ramsey
is chief of police of the District.