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
I see Mrs. 14th & You come out of semi-retirement (Mr. 14th & You had been running things for a while). Moreover, she came out fighting in her post on the Monday evening crime meeting in Shaw, which featured Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). Here you go.
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.
Tonight Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) is holding a public safety-crime forum in Shaw (7 p.m. at New Community Church, 614 S Street NW). Mendelson—chair of the Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary—resides in upper Northwest’s Cleveland Park, a very different neighborhood from downtown Shaw. So, I thought it would be interesting to look at crime numbers for these two neighborhoods to see how the compare.
For Cleveland Park, I ran crime stats for the intersection of Newark Street and Connecticut Avenue NW, which is by the Uptown Theatre. For Shaw, I ran the stats for 7th and P Streets NW, which is near the Kennedy Recreation Center and the O Street Market project.
Note: All numbers below are for Jan. 1 to Dec. 10 of this year and encompass an area within a 1,500-foot radius of the given address. The numbers are from the MPD’s crime database as of Dec. 10 (numbers were run on Dec. 13).
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
Just a reminder about a couple of things happening in Borderstan tomorrow.
Farmers’ Market, 14th & U NW. Remember that the 14th and U Farmers’ Market continues into October. You can get info about the market on Facebook and since they have a public page on Facebook, you don’t have to be a registered member of Facebook to go to it. (Got that?) On the northwest corner of 14th and U Streets NW.
Clark Ray for Council Kickoff, 17th & Q NW. At 10 a.m. Clark Ray will officially announce his candidacy for the DC City Council at the corner of 17th and Q Streets NW next to Java House. Ray is kicking off his candidacy in Ward 2 where served as neighborhood service coordinator for former Mayor Anthony Williams. Ray is running for the At-Large seat held by Phil Mendelson; they will be on the ballot in the Democratic Primary in September 2010. (Full disclosure: I know Ray and am supporting him.)
The WaPo has a story this evening on the DC Council debate and vote today on Mayor Fenty’s Omnibus-emergency crime bill. The bill was defeated 9-4 with Bowser (Ward 4), Catania (At Large), Evans (Ward 2) and Graham (Ward 1) voting for it. But, the Council passed an alternative put forth by Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who heads the DC Council Judiciary committee; it focuses on stiffer penalties for gun crimes.
Here is how dcist summarized the votes today in the DC Council:
For a less exalted assessment of the proceedings, try Tim Craig. The bottom line: Jack Evans lost his bid to enact so-called “civil gang injunctions,” while Phil Mendelson’s more conservative emergency crime bill, which focuses on stiffer penalties for certain gun crimes, committing crimes with stolen cars, and chronic offenders, passed, and now goes into effect for 90 days of summer. Oh yeah, and no curfew. [WaPo]
Mike DeBonis / Loose Lips Daily at the Washington City Paper has a wrap up of the D.C. Council hearing yesterday (Monday) on the Omnibus Crime Bill as well as links to video of local TV coverage of recent violent crime in the District.
Earlier Borderstan postings on the crime bill:
- Jack Evans: Pass Mayor’s Omnibus Crime Bill
- April 13: Mendelson Holding Town Hall Crime Mtg in Shaw
- Gang Stats from Crime Bill Hearing
- March 18: Public Hearing on DC Omnibus Crime Bill
- Omnibus Crime Bill Roundtable Recap
- Friday, Dec. 5: D.C. Council Hearing on Mayor’s Crime Bill
There was no shortage of drama at yesterday’s crime-bill hearing. Early in the day, public safety committee chair Phil Mendelson recessed the hearing after a top OAG official didn’t show for his issue-by-issue panel format, as both LL and WaPo’s Theola Labbé-DeBose noted. Peter Nickles, who apparently considers council hearing procedure to be under his purview, said his people would appear once or not at all.
DC At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson is an important player when it comes to crime and public safety in D.C. The reason is simple: he is chair of the Council Committee on Public Safety & the Judiciary.
Mendelson’s office has announced that he will hold three community meetings to talk about crime-related concerns. The closest meeting, and the only one in Northwest, is at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 13 in Shaw at the Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th Street NW.
Note: See earlier Borderstan postings on the Omnibus Crime Bill: “Gang Stats from Crime Bill Hearing”; “March 18: Public Hearing on DC Omnibus Crime Bill”; “Omnibus Crime Bill Roundtable Recap”; and “Friday, Dec. 5: D.C. Council Hearing on Mayor’s Crime Bill”.
You can also read Mayor Fenty’s Oct. 3, 2008, news release with his reasons on why he believes the bill is needed.
For more details, see this news release from Mendelson’s office via the MPD 2D listserv on Yahoo! Groups:
The Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council holds a public hearing at noon this Friday, December 5, on Mayor Adrian Fenty’s crime bill. The hearing is at the John A. Wilson Building and members of the public can sign up to provide testimony and/or submit written statements (details follow). Fenty introduced Bill 17-951, the “Omnibus Anti-Crime Amendment Act of 2008” on October 6.
The crime bill has eight different sections. However, the Friday public hearing will deal with only three portions of the bill: penalties and sentencing related to gun crimes; establishment of anti-gang provisions; and establishment of certain witness protection provisions. Continue reading