Feds, Local Police Team Up on D.C. Crime
Saturday, July 22, 2006
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday that the city is teaming with at least a dozen federal law enforcement agencies to take those responsible for the recent spike in violence off the streets.
Hours before signing an emergency crime bill into law, Williams (D) said he wants to use the newly formed Violent Crime Task Force to cut violent crime in half within 30 days. "We can get this problem under control," he said.
D.C. police are adding detectives to target career criminals and other violent offenders, and officers have been put on six-day workweeks. The FBI is assigning about 10 agents to work with the police, performing surveillance and conducting undercover operations. Prosecutors will push to have robbery suspects held without bond, seek to have more 16- and 17-year-old suspects tried as adults for violent offenses, and reexamine older cases.
The moves are in reaction to a surge in robberies this year and this month's jump of homicides. They come two days after the D.C. Council overwhelmingly passed the emergency crime bill, which includes a 10 p.m. curfew for youths 16 and younger. The city now has a midnight curfew.
The crime bill requires the D.C. government and police to provide at least five days' notice, on city Web sites and in newspapers, before the new curfew can be enforced. City officials said yesterday that they were still hammering out the details of when the curfew will take effect.
The new law also gives police immediate access to some confidential juvenile records and clears the way for the city to install surveillance cameras in residential neighborhoods for the first time. Where and when the cameras will be installed has not been decided.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that parents already should have strict curfews and guidelines for their children.
"Parental accountability cannot be overlooked," he said. "How can you let your kid come home with a pair of Michael Jordan shoes when you know you didn't buy them?"
Ramsey joined Williams and other officials at a news conference touting the formation of the task force, taking the step amid community pressure to act. Similar task forces have been formed over the decades with varying success. Resources grew tight in recent years as federal authorities devoted more time to terrorism matters.
Among those pledging a unified and hard-charging front were U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein; Michael C. Mines, head of the criminal division of the FBI's Washington field office; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). The group also pledged to hold a crime summit in 60 days -- an idea first pushed by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who also attended the news conference.
"No one of us has a silver bullet that can reduce crime," Wainstein said. "But together, we do have the silver bullet. And that silver bullet is teamwork."
The same spirit of cooperation was promoted yesterday at a hearing of the House Government Reform Committee, where Norton urged U.S. Park Police to get help from other agencies in dealing with a recent series of robberies on the Mall. She said she feared that Park Police are stretched too thin to add officers to the Mall while maintaining a presence in other area parks.