We've discussed public safety and crime issues in Hill East in the past, and given the recent crimes in the neighborhood, I wanted to share an update with you. I’ve also heard from several neighbors directly over the last few days and I know it's a topic of conversation throughout the community.
Like you, I find the recent crimes alarming, impacting the ability to feel safe in the community we call home. I’m working with MPD and at the Council to make improvements. I spoke last week with the leadership of MPD and the Chief has agreed to add more resources, manpower, and overtime to Hill East, specifically to PSAs 108 and 104 to help combat this spike. While we did see a reduction in crime from the spikes earlier this summer, these recent crimes are very alarming. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the statistics say if you don’t feel safe or are a victim yourself.
Further, I wanted to let you know that there have already been arrests made in several of the recent robberies. One of the changes that MPD has made is to broadcast alerts and suspect “look-outs” to all 7 of the police districts, rather than just the district where the crime occurred. As a result, the suspects from some of the weekend robberies were seen and apprehended the same day in the 6th District (the robbery took place in the 1st District). The officers I’ve talked to are currently looking at several other robberies these individuals may be linked to so that further charges can be made. I talk with our MPD leadership on a regular basis to advocate for and work through policy changes like this to try and help them do a better job of keeping our communities safe.
I want to share a brief summary of some of the recent actions I've taken. But if you have any other questions, please let me know and I’d be happy to go into greater detail.
As I mentioned above, I've been in touch with MPD and the local Commander to request extra attention to the area and the PSA. In addition to the need for more MPD presence, I’m trying to work on other ways to address what we’re seeing. I've worked over the last week or so to have area schools be more engaged with their students after the school day ends. For example, I worked with the leadership at Caesar Chavez Public Charter School, as they now have a "Safe Passages" program where teachers and administrators are located at strategic intersections between the school and Potomac Avenue and Eastern Market Metro stations from 3 to 5 pm to keep an eye on student behavior in the neighborhood. That won’t solve each and every problem, but I do want our schools to take a proactive role.
In terms of broader actions, I wanted to recap a few items I’ve been working on that try to address the deeper issues. While I’ve stayed in close touch with each of the Commanders across Ward 6 during this summer’s crime spike, I've also hosted 13 different public safety meetings with residents to provide updates, answer questions, and have MPD respond directly to community concerns. Further, I've worked on the legislative front to tackle public safety problems in a variety of ways – passing some legislation dealing with synthetic drug use and sales, adding funding to police & community efforts, introducing legislation to compensate home owners who invest in security camera systems, and working on robust legislative reforms to look at ways to bolster crime prevention efforts. I’ve recapped some of those efforts in recent email newsletters in case you’d like to review a bit more: here, here, here, and here.
When looking at the full picture, I believe what we're seeing isn't a problem that we can only arrest our way out of. To be effective, our public safety policy needs to ensure consistency in arrests and consistency in consequences. That's something I don't always see from the US Attorney's Office and our Courts (which frustratingly, we don't have oversight of). But I also believe we need comprehensive strategies that involve additional MPD resources, legislative reforms, and community investments that ideally work to prevent the crime from occurring in the first place.
To that end, there is a hearing we’re holding at the Council next week (Wednesday, October 21, starting at 1pm) that you might be interested in. For more information on the hearing, please click here. The hearing will include a large set of legislative reforms we’re considering here at the Council: B21-360, the "Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act of 2015"; B21-357, the "Public Safety and Criminal Code Revisions Amendment Act of 2015"; B21-382, the "Bail Reform Amendment Act of 2015"; B21-384, the "District of Columbia Good Time Credits Amendment Act of 2015"; B21-189, the "Police and Criminal Discovery Reform Amendment Act of 2015."
Related to the “NEAR” legislation referenced above, I believe it can have a very positive impact on reducing crime. It is modeled on the very successful initiatives in Richmond, California that helped lead to major decreases in violent crime and robberies. Here is one article about that experience, but there is much more if you’re interested in learning more. I suspect the hearing on Wednesday will allow us to dig into these proposals further – both to see what might work, and what is lacking.
I welcome your feedback and suggestions on any or all of them. I know the daytime schedule of the hearing may cause some to be unable to attend or testify in person, but if you want to send feedback via email or letter, I’d be happy to have it included in the official record for the hearing and legislation -- and I’ll make sure it's included in the discussion that day.
I'll stay on this, I welcome your feedback, and I appreciate the work you’re doing with neighbors to help improve safety as well. Please feel free to share this with any of your friends and neighbors who you think would be interested as well.