The Mayor's Six-Step Proposal to Curb Crime

Tuesday, July 18, 2006; 1:32 PM

July 17, 2006
The Honorable Linda W. Cropp
Council of the District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 504
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Chairman Cropp:

I ask for your leadership in convening a special session of the Council to consider and approve legislation that will assist in addressing a recent surge in crime in the District. As you know, serious crime in the District has plummeted 40 percent since 1997, and the crime rate in the District was lower in 2005 than at any time since the late 1960s, when the national FBI reporting system was last revised. We have accomplished this tremendous progress through our joint efforts, the leadership of Chief of Police Charles Ramsey, and the hard work and vigilance of our police officers across all of our neighborhoods. This continued improvement makes it essential that we act now to prevent any reversal or interruption of our long-term trend in reducing crime.

On July 11, 2006, Chief Ramsey declared a crime emergency in immediate response to a sharp increase in criminal activity, which has included 15 homicides since July 1st, an 11 percent increase in robberies, an 11 percent rise in assaults with a deadly weapon, and a 10 percent increase in burglaries over the past 30 days. Over the past six months, we have also seen a 14 percent increase in the number of juveniles arrested, an 82 percent increase in juveniles arrested for robbery, and a 27 percent increase in juveniles arrested for weapons charges. The crime emergency declaration now frees the Metropolitan Police Department to deploy police officers more flexibly and quickly to areas of high-crime and in ways that increase police visibility across the city. I fully support the Chief's decision and the actions he is taking to reduce violent criminal activity this summer. In addition to enhancing deployment, we will continue to focus on and accelerate other relevant initiatives, such as our youth development strategy, 40 Days of Increase the Peace, additional field access to criminal justice system information, and intensive outreach to community and business groups.

MPD, however, cannot do this job alone. Last Friday, we convened city and federal agencies to discuss increased support and coordination, including enhanced FBI and ATF investigation assistance, better coordination with federal law enforcement agencies, and an augmented focus on repairing streetlights, addressing blighted properties, and removing abandoned vehicles in targeted areas. Final details need to be worked out, but I am confident that we are ready to push ahead in a comprehensive way to address the surge in crime that we are determined to head off immediately. Our immediate goal is to reduce violent crime by 50 percent over the next 30 days, and coordination of efforts will be critical to achieving this goal.

It is with this sense of cooperation and partnership that I ask you and the rest of the Council to demonstrate a united front by convening a special session to pass critical emergency legislation to support our efforts. While I understand that the Council officially began its recess this week, I know you share my sense of urgency in preventing the recent spike in crime from affecting our progress in reducing crime over the past decade. I look forward to your quick decision.

Specifically, I am seeking Council approval of emergency legislation that does the following:

1) Authorize the Mayor to modify established curfew hours. As you know, the Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 prohibits minors from remaining in any public place or on the premises of any establishment during curfew hours. For July and August, the curfew statute defines curfew hours to be between 12:01 am and 6:00 am. This rigid definition fails to take into account circumstances, such as those that currently exist, where an earlier beginning to the curfew is necessary for public safety purposes. My legislative proposal will vest in the Mayor the authority to establish alternative curfew hours following a public safety necessity determination and appropriate public notification.

2) Allow MPD to gain access to critical information regarding released juvenile offenders. As you know, Councilmember Mendelson held a hearing on June 12 regarding my legislative proposal to mandate the disclosure of information on juvenile arrestees to the MPD. I am submitting, for emergency consideration, a revised proposal that takes into account some of the concerns raised at the hearing as well as commentary submitted for the record, including the written comments submitted by Chief Judge Rufus G. King III. However, the fundamental nature of the legislation remains unchanged; when juveniles arrested for unauthorized use of a vehicle, a crime of violence, a weapons offense, or arrested three or more times are placed in the community or released outright, the police must be informed, especially when such juveniles receive conditional or probationary releases. I want to note that this version adds weapons offenses to the list of crimes, and this was not in the originally introduced bill.

The current statutory scheme prohibits police from obtaining from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services information regarding juvenile placement, release, and probation in all cases, regardless of whether the juvenile was arrested for shoplifting or armed robbery. My proposal will change this, giving the police access to information for the most egregious offenders and recognizing the legitimate public safety needs of the community.

3) Authorize the expanded use of closed circuit television ("CCTV") cameras in neighborhoods to capture and prevent criminal activity. In April of this year, I submitted to the Council proposed amendments to the existing CCTV regulations that would have authorized MPD to initiate a pilot project for the purpose of using the CCTV system to combat crime. Since the Council did not affirmatively approve the amendments within the 45-day period of review, by operation of statute, the amendments were deemed disapproved. Given the declared crime emergency, it is imperative that we provide the Metropolitan Police Department with as many tools as possible to combat crime. I am convinced that CCTV can be utilized to effectively combat crime without infringing on citizens' privacy rights. Accordingly, I will revise the amendments to provide the Metropolitan Police Department broader authority to use the CCTV system to combat crime, and I will resubmit the amendments to the Council with a request that they be approved on an emergency basis. Consistent with this proposal, I will evaluate the feasibility and utility of supporting private entities and associations that seek to take advantage of CCTV technology and share recordings with the police as appropriate.

4) Creating a rebuttable presumption to detain certain adults or juveniles charged with robbery pending a trial or disposition hearing. This presumption shall apply only to adults and juveniles charged with robbery who are armed with any deadly or dangerous weapon (and not just firearms or imitation firearms), or not armed at all but injure the victim during the course of a robbery, or are charged in a single case with two or more robberies arising out of separate incidents.

5) Allocate funding for police overtime and overtime costs at other critical government agencies. I will be requesting that the Chief Financial Officer ("CFO") authorize the availability of $9 million from the contingency reserve fund to support the following:

* $8 million to cover overtime costs for the Metropolitan Police Department in order to immediately put 300 additional officers on the streets for the next six weeks.

* $1 million for overtime costs in other agencies to more quickly address issues (graffiti, abandoned vehicles, streetlights, blighted buildings, et cetera) that make areas conducive to crime.

6) Allocate funding for components of our youth development strategy. It is important that, as we look to increased protections for residents, we also provide strategies and opportunities for rehabilitation for offenders, particularly our youth. To support our ongoing youth anti-violence strategy, I will also be requesting that the CFO authorize sufficient funding from the contingency reserve fund to support the following:

* $380,000 (annual: $1.62 million) to expand the Partnership for Success to serve 100 additional youth. The Partnership involves intensive monitoring, casework and other interventions with juvenile offenders, including repeat arrestees. It also provides stronger incentives for youth who have demonstrated a commitment to turning their lives around.

* $75,000 (annual: $300,000) to continue girl gang/crew mediation and peace-building initiative in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8. This initiative involves peer mediation activities, summer employment opportunities, leadership development, and a retreat for gang/crew members.

* $70,000 (annual: $300,000) to expand recreation and street outreach in Police Service Area ("PSA") 104 in Ward 6. This initiative involves night outreach, gang/crew mediation for males, sustaining the truce between girl crews, tougher curfew enforcement, and a late-night basketball league for teens in the 15 to 18 year-old age range.

* $50,000 (annual: $450,000) to support the Gang Intervention Partnership ("GIP") in PSA 302 in Ward 1. The GIP is aimed at addressing the activity of gangs and crews in this part of the city through interagency strategy meetings, conflict mapping, critical incident response, street outreach, and youth and family case management.

Of the emergency funds requested, I want to highlight the support needed for the Partnership for Success. The Partnership has created a Rewards Store, which is an initiative focused on court-involved youth at highest risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence or crime. Though we currently rely on juvenile justice system sanctions to further discipline youth, we have developed the Rewards Store to reflect youth development best practice and the importance of strength-based interventions.

In addition, while I understand Council approval is not required to access these funds, I am requesting an affirmation of Council's support through a Sense of the Council resolution to allocate this funding as proposed.

Let me close by acknowledging that this request by the Executive for an additional Council meeting is not routine, but I hope it is clear that the circumstances of recent weeks warrant immediate, decisive, and proactive steps. It is important that this legislative meeting focus on the public safety needs and priorities of our residents.

Anthony A. Williams

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