Public Safety and Violent Crime: D.C.’s Number 1 Quality of Life Issue

Having safe neighborhoods free of crime is essential if Washingtonians are to enjoy the high-quality of life everyone expects and deserves. It is essential to supporting existing and growing small businesses. It is essential to having quality parks, playgrounds, schools, and public spaces. And, it is essential as development comes to our communities and we grow as a city.

It’s high time that our leaders in the Wilson building and at 300 Indiana Avenue provide the level of support our beat officers genuinely need. Focusing on synthetic marijuana, organizing public safety walks, and disbanding MPD’s vice units fail to successfully address the rise in violent crime and homicides in our communities or to offer any long-term solution to make our streets safe. As pointed out by ANC 2F06 Commissioner Charlie Bengel as part of his 10-point crime plan, it is critically important to re-introduce district-based plain clothes vice units.

Along those lines, I believe MPD must:

  1. Bring back its district-based vice units;
  2. Solve its problem of hiring and retaining qualified and experienced officers (including a lateral hiring program); and,
  3. Empower beat officers to practice good, old-fashioned policing rather than assign them to fixed posts as is currently done.

Add to this the need to focus on the growing drug problem/trade, that being cocaine, PCP, and — along lower Georgia Avenue – heroin. We’ve confronted these problems before, and they illustrate exactly why we need dedicated vice units in every D.C. police district and experienced beat officers. Let’s also be real, these problems are not just along corridors like Georgia Avenue, but can also be found deep in our neighborhoods were used needles have been found in seemingly safe areas like the intersection of Otis and Park places, NW.

Our leaders need to be honest with themselves, and with the community. As already stated, we need the vice units re-established – but we must accept that they were disbanded (in part) to help address our shortage of beat cops. MPD’s inability to train and retain enough good officers must be addressed. Furthermore, MPD does not currently have a lateral hiring program, meaning it does not hire qualified, experienced officers from other jurisdictions. Such a policy is unacceptable. In order to maintain levels of policing that we’ve not only come to rely on, but that are critically necessary, we must be open to employing good officers regardless of where they are coming from.

As Gregg Pemberton wrote on the Police Union blog (posted on July 31, 2015):

The MPD is hemorrhaging personnel at an alarming rate. We’ve lost over 550 officers in the past 19 months. That’s more than 5 times the size of an average police department. Only about half of that number is due to retirements.” Pemberton continues, “The largest group of officers leaving [are] those with between 2 and 10 years of service.

Yes, we need a plan to address the violence that is throughout Washington right now … but if we fail to address MPD’s ability to keep experienced officers on our streets and in our neighborhoods, any plan we come up with today will not succeed in the future. Whether it’s a change in culture, a change in policies, or a change in both … the change that is needed can only come from the top. It is time for the Mayor, Chief Lanier, and our Councilmembers to honestly work together and be the change we need to live in safe, thriving communities. Now is the time to put people before politics!

Explore posts in the same categories: Crime, MPD, Shootings

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5 Comments on “Public Safety and Violent Crime: D.C.’s Number 1 Quality of Life Issue”

  1. Jim Slicio Says:

    Finally Kent! Very good!

  2. K Says:

    Spot on Kent! Those three things are simple realistic changes that could be implemented by our leadership to make an impact on this growing problem that is threatening the viability of our neighborhood.

    Of course there are others that would definitely help (which would likely draw opposition due to elected officials politic interests) such as inacting some form of anti-loitering laws to give police more authority to root out trouble before it occurs, strong sentencing for juveniles, and actually moving along public housing deconcentration (ie Park Morton)!

    So now what can we do to push our leaders to institute these changes? I think much of the community would be behind this as frustration is mounting. I will be emailing our Mayor and Nadeau but don’t know how effective that is. Suggestions are welcome

  3. Anonymous Says:

    People need to start taking about a recall. Bowser clearly doesn’t know what she’s doing and this isn’t the job to fake it ’til you make it. People’s lives are at stake.

    • Parkview Says:

      Well said! We need more ANC Reps being outspoken! I voted for Bowser and Nadeau, but am extremely disappointed in both. All they talked about for the longest time was affordable housing… Meanwhile if they had any clue as to what was happening in the community, they’d know our top priority is CRIME. Bowser and Nadeua are soft on crime and seem to lack the leadership or strategic knowledge to do what needs to be done. MPD seems lost. They are undermanned and not using what they have efficiently.

  4. Beth S Says:

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