The Justice Department has told a community activist that statistics she is seeking on the outcomes of criminal prosecutions in the District are not available, though the agency says it will try to provide her data that could be useful.
Denise Rucker Krepp, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for Hill East, adjacent to Capitol Hill, said she plans to appeal the decision, which she called “nonsense.” The Justice Department is still formulating a new response to Krepp, who gained attention when she held a bake sale and raised $2,000 to pay for any documents that were uncovered.
Krepp, motivated by a surge of robberies on Capitol Hill, is trying to learn what happens to people after they’re arrested by D.C. police. She asked for conviction rates for people arrested in the District, broken down by all eight political wards.
The prosecutor’s executive division wrote her that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia “does not track this information and has no means of searching for or retrieving” it.
Krepp was incredulous. “How are they going to solve crime if they have no idea how many people they are prosecuting?” she asked.
The Justice Department had already warned Krepp that her request — made under the Freedom of Information Act — might not be fulfilled. They told her it was on the “complex” track, meaning it could take months. Then they told her it would cost $40 an hour to research. That was when she held the fundraiser.
But after inquires from the media, a spokesman for the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys said officials are trying to find information that responds to the spirit of Krepp’s request. In a statement, David Ausiello said that the office “properly processed and responded to Ms. Krepp’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which seeks specific statistical information. We are now working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia to see if other agencies might be able to provide data that is useful to her.”
While Krepp has a reputation as an agitator, she has gained support on her push for statistics. Both D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) have called for ways to make it simpler for people to figure out how a criminal defendant is winding through the judicial system. Both have made repeat violent offenders a mantra for explaining last year’s rise in homicides and robberies, and they have called on holding other parts of the criminal justice system accountable.
At a news conference last year, Bowser told Krepp, “You already have my support in asking the Department of Justice to look very closely at their cases and move on their cases.” The mayor said she is working on a way to track criminal cases from arrest through prosecution and post-sentence supervision, a task she said even District officials have had a difficult time doing.
This month, the mayor and police chief announced a new robbery task force to more quickly identify robbery sprees. A prosecutor has been assigned to the group to target robbery suspects.
Krepp noted that during one recent news conference on robberies, a top prosecutor said there were 300 robbery suspects awaiting trial at that moment. “If you can find that number, surely you can find others,” she said.
Krepp said she will donate the $2,000 she has raised so far to charity, such as groups that help crime victims.