On Monday, the DC Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary will hold hearings on the “Neighborhood and Victims Rights Amendment Act of 2010.” Time is 11 a.m. in Room 123 of the John A. Wilson building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. If you want to provide testimony on the bill, the deadline to sign up is 5 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday); details on how to sign up are below the fold.
The crime bill was introduced by two Councilmembers—Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2)—and is supported by Mayor Adrian Fenty. Evans represents the huge bulk of the Dupont-Logan area while Graham represents a slice of the area with the U Street corridor. However, most of Graham’s district is further north and centered in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. (Evans recently announced his candidacy for chairman of the DC Council in the September primary.)
Provisions of the Bill
According to Evans’ office, the bill does the following: Continue reading
Last night’s Shaw crime forum featuring DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) followed a pattern we have seen at similar rodeos in the Dupont–Logan area: questions and venting from frustrated residents, which were were met with detailed explanations of the criminal justice system. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and a representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office were also there and actively participated in the meeting.
Mendelson did a mea culpa of sorts on his recent statement that “Crime in Shaw is not a legislative issue,” saying it was a poor choice of words. Evans noted that he has another anti-gang bill that will be introduced today.
Mendelson defended himself by noting that lots of anti-crime legislation has been passed by the Council during his tenure as chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. Moreover, he seemed to put some of the blame for DC’s violent crime problem on the system, i.e., the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, on the other hand, told attendees that their office prosecutes crimes to the fullest.
So, what did the meeting accomplish? Mendelson seems closer to lending his support to a broader anti-loitering law, has already backed a school-zone loitering law, and wants funding to examine the District’s revolving door. Evans has an anti-gang bill due out today, which Mendelson should give a timely hearing and fair consideration. Mendelson and the U.S. Attorneys Office both got an earful and one can hope that what they heard will add vigor to their efforts and give them helpful perspective in their decisionmaking.
If I could ask only one question of Councilmember Phil Mendelson at his community forum on crime in Shaw Monday night, it would be this: “Why is DC’s murder rate 4.56 times higher than that of New York City and what is your plan to keep fewer young people from being killed?” (More on homicide rates below).
No, the Shaw neighborhood is not in Borderstan. However, Council Member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) has influence over the entire District in his role as chair of the Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. So, it is noteworthy that he is holding a meeting tomorrow evening (December 14) to talk about public safety with Shaw and Mount Vernon Square residents. Time is 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the New Community Church, 614 S Street NW.
I suspect the meeting will be interesting and that Mendelson will get an earful from Shaw residents, particularly regarding past statements. Whatever issues we have in Dupont-Logan-U Street with crime, the folks in Shaw have more serious problems than we do here in the Borderstan area or in many other parts of the city.
“Not a Legislative Problem”
Mendelson has made some statements in the past that I (and others) find puzzling. For example, there is, “Crime in Shaw is not a legislative problem.” And you may like or dislike Harry Jaffe, but you should read this June 1, 2008, piece at Washingtonian.com, “Why DC’s Bad Guys Have So Many Guns.” (Coincidentally, Jaffe had a piece on violent crime in DC in today’s Examiner.)
In addition, Mendelson battled and defeated the mayor’s Omnibus Crime Bill earlier this year and has opposed efforts by Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) to enact some much tougher crime measures. Note: For background information and a history of the bills, read Cary Silverman’s posting at his blog, The Other 35 Percent.
I disagree with Mendelson. Crime in Shaw (and the District) is a legislative problem. At the very least, legislation is part of solving the problem, if not the entire answer.
The police and a number of members of the DC Council feel strongly that there are some tougher and more effective laws that could be enacted that would help law enforcement officers do their jobs more effectively. The reality is that DC still has a crime rate much higher than that of other major U.S. cities.
New York and Chicago, for example, have violent crime rates much lower than DC. This fact seems to get lost somewhere. Why don’t we as residents, demand to know why this is the case? What does New York do that we do not do? Why can’t we learn from other major U.S. cities?
DC’s Murder Rate 4.56 Times Higher Than New York City
Let’s take the murder rate. We hear a great deal about DC’s declining murder rate. It is, indeed, very good news. But here is the ugly reality. The murder rate in New York City is 4.99 homicides per 100,000 people (through Nov. 22 this year). In DC, the homicide rate is 22.77 per 100,000 people (through Dec. 10 this year).¹ So, what is the answer? I don’t know, but I do wish that we (residents and elected officials) would start to ask why and try to figure out what we can do to bring down the rate of violent crime in DC. At the very least, shouldn’t we be asking the question?
When we have a murder rate that is 4.56 times higher than New York City, I am not sure we should be bragging about our declining murder rate. (There have been 134 homicides in DC through Dec. 10 compared to 175 for the same period in 2008).
I am going to try to make it to the Monday meeting in Shaw to hear what residents ask and how Mendelson answers. I suggest that you go, too.
Full Disclosure: Cark Ray is running against Mendelson in the Democratic primary next September for the At-Large Council seat. I have known Clark for more than a decade and I am supporting him; yes, you will find my name (Matthew Rhoades) among Clark’s contributors. Those of you who have been reading this blog since we started it in August 2008 know that I have been writing about DC crime long before Clark began his campaign.
About Tonight’s Meeting
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier will address the monthly meeting of the DCCA tonight at 7:30 p.m. at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue NW. The meeting is open to the public. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans will also be there. Both will take questions from the audience. DCCA asks that questions be submitted beforehand to Robin Diener at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday: DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier is the featured guest speaker at the December meeting of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA). There will also be an update from Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans. The meeting is open to the public; you do not have to be a DCCA member to attend.
Time is 7:30 p.m. on Monday, December 7. Location is the Society of the Cincinnati Anderson House, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
DCCA asks that you send your questions for Lanier or Evans to DCCA President Robin Diener at email@example.com.
From DCCA’s meeting notice: “Lanier describes her crime-fighting philosophy as proactive. ‘We can no longer wait for crime to come to us but need to look at the history and the trends and project from there.’ Some of Lanier’s tactics have drawn fire (i.e., curfews, search-and-seize methods, a controversial five days of checkpoints in the Trinidad neighborhood of DC after a series of shootings, etc). In her two and a half years as Chief, there has been a decrease in major crime incidents and in 2008 had the highest closure rate on homicide cases, the highest on department record.”
Now there is video from NBC-4. Photos of Mayor Adrian Fenty and Councilmember Jack Evans and DDoT Director Gabe Klein taking a ceremonial bike ride in Borderstan’s 15th Street NW bike lane were the subject of numerous bl0g postings and tweets yesterday around town.
This thing has practically become a tourist attraction for the Dupont Circle-Logan Circle area.
Here is one more story about the 15th Street bike lane. This one started with a flurry of activity outside our house this morning: numerous trucks, mini street sweepers and DDoT workers were cleaning 15th Street. (The sweeping is nice since the city has already stopped with regular sweeping for the winter.)
Then, around 11:15 came the event. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and DDoT Director Gabe Klein arrived for a [Fenty] press conference about 15th Street, bicycles and the new bike lane.
Ug. Summer is sort of over, but autumn doesn’t officially begin until September 23. In the meantime, here’s a cute-dog-pic for you: Lupe at the opening of the 17th Street dog park last Thursday with political poobahs.
A couple of people told me that Clark Ray—candidate for DC Council and former head of DC Parks and Recreation until his dismissal by Mayor Adrian Fenty in April—was at the ribbon cutting for the park. Some of his supporters were on hand, too, wearing Ray stickers.
Nothing unusual there… but Fenty, Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Ximena Hartsock (Ray’s replacement) all recognized Ray from the podium at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies today, giving him credit for his role in creation of both the Shaw Dog Park and the 17th Street park.
Ironic that Fenty fires Ray, but then gives Ray credit for his good work. I guess I do have to give Fenty credit for recognizing Ray, but some days it is tough to figure out our mayor.
(Full disclosure: I know Ray and am supporting him in his bid against incumbent Phil Mendelson in the 2010 Democratic Primary for an At-Large Council seat.)
Many dogs and their owners also turned out for the dog park, which was plagued by long delays and an opening date several months after the original deadline.
Unfortunately, there was a dog fight right after the ribbon cutting. It appeared that a big dog got hold of a Chihuahua, but I don’t know if the smaller dog was hurt. One thing missing from this park is the separate area for smaller dogs that is part of the Shaw Dog Park on 11th Street NW.
One thing I hope we don’t see more of at the new dog park: a small child was running around in the middle of the dogs. Small children should never be inside an enclosed area with dogs. What if that dog had gone after the small child instead of the small dog? Note to parents: Please read Child Safety: On Dogs, Dog Parks and Small Children.