12:55 a.m.: robbery 5200 block of 2nd Street NW.
1:29 a.m.: homicide 6700 block 5th Street NW.
The following day, crime took an even more audacious turn. A robbery was committed in broad daylight at 9th and Quackenbos streets NW, a few yards from Fourth District police headquarters. A gray Toyota drove up, a man jumped out, and with 4D HQ in plain sight, robbed the victim and drove away.
Then, on Thursday evening, bullets flew at near the intersection of 14th and Riggs streets NW, scattering pedestrians and restaurant patrons.
A veteran police officer, speaking on background, put it bluntly: “We are living in a traumatic time period.”
Stories about crime east of the Anacostia River, a media mainstay, miss mayhem elsewhere in the city.
Street shootings and murders grab all the attention.
But the nasty business of taking someone’s possessions, whether by snatching, punching or stomping, or by brandishing a knife or sticking a gun in the face — called “robbery” — is having a field day across the District.
At last count, nearly 1,000 robberies have taken place in 2021, up 2 percent from last year. Those are the reported cases.
And car thefts, sometimes right from under the owner? That has happened more than 1,860 times so far — a startling 25 percent leap over last year’s pace.
To top it off, the veteran law enforcement official said, “a significant number of people being arrested for these crimes have been previously arrested for committing the same crimes, year after year.”
Police Chief Robert J. Contee III alluded to that problem after the shooting outside Nationals Park. “We can reform the police, that’s great, community people can call tips in, that’s great, but if we’re letting these people out the back door and not being held accountable for their actions, that’s another issue we have to dig deep into,” he said.
Indeed, some of the same offenders, including young ones, keep turning up. Cops have a hard time keeping up. “Stretched thin” is the way one top cop put it — citing staffing shortages, rock-bottom morale and resignations.
The D.C. Council and mayor, no political slouches if nothing else, know something needs to be done. Their response has been to pour more than $200 million into gun-violence prevention programs — perhaps useful, but clearly of unproven worth.
A neutral, third-party evaluator should be on hand to track the performance of these lofty objectives. They are gambling with other people’s money — namely, taxpayers who are already bearing the brunt of crime.
But where are city leaders on the reality that offenders must be held accountable?
By any yardstick, the chief preoccupation of lawmakers and public safety advocates is police reform. That tops all else. The crime crisis comes in a distant second.
At a May forum on urgent criminal justice issues in the city, D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson asked stakeholders a simple but admittedly hard question to answer: “What is the one thing you would do in policy or practice to [quickly] improve public safety in the District?”
Robert Bobb, co-chair of the D.C. Police Reform Commission and former city administrator, answered: “Create an environment within [[the D.C. police]] where there is complete transparency of how the police operate, which would be shared without any editing with the community.”
Chanell Autrey, former D.C. Council staffer and public defender: “More funding for the Department of Behavioral Health to implement more crisis intervention and work directly with District providers.”
Monica Hopkins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C.: “I think one of the things is accountability. So, I would add to Bob’s [Bobb] transparency piece and say without accountability, transparency might not be such a great thing.”
Christy E. Lopez, co-chair of the D.C. Police Reform Commission and former Justice Department Civil Rights Division official (and a Post contributing columnist): “I would want to . . . look at implementing either a generalized first-responder . . . model . . . or a mental health crisis response. . . . It would reduce a lot of human harm and pain that happens when we get the wrong response . . . a police response when another type of response is warranted.”
Patrick A. Burke, executive director of the D.C. Police Foundation and former assistant police chief: “Conduct a legislative review . . . on decriminalizing some lesser offenses. Whether it is citation in lieu of arrest to other alternatives to arrest. . . . There are certain things that maybe could be decriminalized that would keep people out of the criminal justice system.”
More was said about injecting cultural competency and anti-bias education into police training. About demilitarizing the police as an “occupying force” in the community; reimagining police as “guardians,” not “warriors”; expunging “anti-Blackness” out of police practices; and changing interactions between Black youth and the police.
As for holding criminals accountable, stopping criminal behavior, not condoning or finding ways to excuse it when it’s repeatedly committed — well, not so much.
And who knows that better than the dudes with the guns.