Violence Rises Despite Police Presence
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Violence in the District continued to rise last weekend despite an increase in arrests and police presence during the department's latest "All Hands on Deck" crime-fighting initiative, police data show.
Most available officers were working the streets Friday to Sunday, making 481 arrests, many for minor offenses. Yet the city recorded two homicides, three sexual abuse cases, 31 robberies and 26 assaults over the three days -- a total of 62 violent crimes, compared with 34 for the same three-day stretch last year.
"The numbers aren't looking good," said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), head of the public safety committee. "This says that 'All Hands on Deck' is more about catching law breakers than deterring crime."
Of the 481 arrests, made between 12:01 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Sunday -- the time period for the "All Hands on Deck" effort -- 119 arrests involved drug offenses, 101 were for traffic violations, 58 for disorderly conduct and 43 for prostitution. There was one arrest after a homicide, four in connection with robberies or carjackings, and 15 involving assaults.
The remaining arrests were for various other offenses.
Last year, during the same time period, police made 385 arrests.
Crime is on the rise in the District, with 165 homicides so far this year -- just four fewer than the homicide total for all of 2006.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who took office in January, has said that "All Hands on Deck" is a better use of resources than the crime emergencies declared by her predecessor, Charles H. Ramsey -- in which officers worked extra days and hours for much longer stretches of time.
The weekend effort was Lanier's fourth "All Hands on Deck" initiative. The other three were during spring and summer, touted by the chief as a way to quell violence and strengthen police ties to the community.
The city spent about $14 million on police overtime during last year's crime emergency. The first "All Hands" ran up $1.2 million in extra costs; initiatives that followed did not create extra costs, officials say, because police staggered shifts throughout the week.
Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said that Columbia Heights and other neighborhoods he represents are dealing with a serious crime spike. Graham said police officials have estimated that more than 100 shots have been fired in his ward since Oct. 1. On Halloween night, 10 people were shot, including four who were attacked at 14th and Harvard streets NW, a half-block from a police car.
"We're hard hit right now by crime," said Graham, who expressed support for the chief's strategy. "More police is better than less police."
He said investigators are having trouble closing cases in part because witnesses are hesitant to talk to police.
"One of the keys to good detective work is community cooperation," Graham said. "In fairness, there's so many violent crimes that nobody wants to talk to police or provide any evidence."
Of the arrests last weekend, 259, or slightly more than half, made their way to D.C. Superior Court. The other cases involved juveniles or minor offenses handled by the D.C. attorney general's office.
Between 25 and 30 percent of the cases in D.C. Superior Court were effectively dropped because prosecutors determined that the cases were not strong enough to proceed.
Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said that percentage is "about in the ballpark" for cases on a typical weekend.