Howdy, folks. This is Mrs. 14th & You temporarily coming out of blogger retirement. (I’m on break from grad school and need something to do other than study for the two standardized tests I must take in the coming month.)
Last night Council member Phil Mendelson hosted a forum on crime in Shaw, which was attended by between 30 and 40 residents. Though Mendelson holds an at-large seat, he is concerned about Shaw because he chairs the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. Also present were representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department, Albert Herring of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ward Two Council member Jack Evans, ANC 2C Commissioner Kevin Chapple, and ANC 2F Commissioner Mike Bernardo. In the scope of city events, it was a small gathering, but a reasonable cross-section of stakeholders was in attendance.
Here’s the really quick summary of some of the solutions proposed by Shaw residents:
- Anti-loitering laws
- Assurances that criminals once caught will stay locked up
- Accountability of public officials
And the really quick summary of Mendelson’s responses:
- Anti-loitering laws have not proven effective in other jurisdictions, such as Richmond. In both DC and CA, anti-loitering laws have been limited by the courts so as to not infringe on the constitutional right to assembly.
- The civil gang injunction legislation was poorly written and almost surely would have violated due process and individual liberties.
- Current laws and mandatory minimum sentencing have not proven to be deterrents to crime.
- Whether someone is convicted and incarcerated rests with the United States Attorney’s Office and judges. DC voters and elected officials have no say over U.S. Attorney or judge appointments.
- He would like Fenty to reinstate the position of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. Mendelson believes that it is the executive branch that has the greatest power to “knock heads” and hold others accountable.
- A number of arrests do not result in indictments. Of the indictments that DC does get, a number of those suspects go free. Mendelson would like to study DC arrest, indictment, and conviction rates in order to determine why so many repeat offenders are free. He reports that he and Evans want to work to secure funding for such a statistical study.
As much ire as Mendelson attracted from residents, Jack Evans should have garnered more for his obnoxious behavior. He used this meeting as a chance to dig into Mendelson for not supporting civil gang injunctions, though it sounds like the legislation as introduced was really poorly written. Evans also shouted down USAO representative Herring, demanding answers for crime in Shaw. Well, Mr. Evans, you came to the meeting with no solutions to the problem. How is a non-elected official with no control over funding, departmental coordination, the MPD, social services, or any other factor other than prosecution supposed to come up with an innovative answer in under thirty seconds? It was unfair petty politicking.
Something that was mentioned twice in the meeting, once by Evans and once by Mendelson, is that, though statistics show drops in crime citywide, even in Shaw, residents perceive a higher crime environment. This was not raised to challenge residents’ assumptions about crime, but rather to validate concerned residents. In my next post, I’ll go ahead and critically examine those assumptions because I’m not an elected official.