Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shaw Crime Meeting Yields More Finger Pointing Than Results

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.
Having now attended the meeting, I’m not sure why Mendelson would host it. Perhaps with an election year coming up he’s feeling pressure from Clark Ray, who this September announced his intent to challenge Mendelson. From statements made at the meeting, it also seems that some area residents and members of the blogosphere have been emailing him lately about their crime concerns. In any event, Phil Mendelson is known for having stated previously that there is no legislative solution to crime in Shaw. Yet, the City Council’s role in crime prevention is, by definition, legislative. This quandary did not miss residents. They wanted to hear that someone somewhere in the DC government could control the situation in Shaw and was going to try to do so. Residents requested that the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary subpoena the USAO’s office. (For the record, Mr. Herring states that his office is asked to testify all the time on proposed legislation and someone always appears or provides written testimony.) Another resident also wanted the Committee to lobby the feds to ensure a greater rate of convictions.

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.


si said...

crime is down, as they tell us at EVERY community meeting (not sure how that's possible.) but the gunfire has increased. the area is relatively safe except for the flying bullets.

CCCA Prez said...

CMs Evans and Graham submitted their new anti-crime legislation yesterday. This has been uploaded to files on the Shaw listserv: -- Neighborhood and Victims Rights Amendment Act of 2009 - (Word.doc and pdf). It should also be searchable on the DC Council site in the next few days.

It's now time for all the "angry" citizens (and even those who aren't particularly angry) to read it, send questions to Ruth Werner or Sherri Kimbel in Mr Evans office; make suggestions to nuisances in Sec. 102. Public Nuisance Abatement, (4); and then start sending emails, letters and CALLING the other At-Large CMs to encourage their support.

For all the necessary Council contact info, go to: http://www.dccouncil.us/

Mr Evans' staff should keep us updated on all relevant upcoming public hearings on this draft bill.

I'm told that Chief Judge Satterfield is usually very eager to attend civic meetings as his schedule permits. Now that his office has received a formal invitation, we are simply waiting to hear about his availability. We might consider holding a special CCCA meeting date if that accomodates his schedule.

Mr Catania told me last night that he is also very interested in coming to at CCCA meeting soon next year. Although Ms Bowser has not yet signed on as a co-sponsor of the latest draft (as she did on the gang civil injunction bill by Mr Evans) she also told me last night that she is willing to take time to meet with the CCCA outside of her very rigorous schedule attending the many community meetings she regularly attends in Ward 4. I think her perspective as another Ward Councilmember will be very valuable for Shaw residents to hear.As of October 25, in Ms Bowser's Ward 4 there were 612 calls for sounds of gunshots all in a concentrated portion of the ward, while there were merely 250 calls for gunshots in Ward 2 concentrated primarily in and around Shaw. We have fairly precise Shotspotter technology in Shaw while I don't know if that technology is used in Ward 4.

Please feel free to cc' the CCCA (and our ANCs)on your emails to the Council. We look forward to seeing all the angry and peace loving neighbors at our meetings next year.

Stanley Ray said...

Mendelsohn is a lying crap-weasel who kicks the can as far down the road as possible. Shaw, and MOST of DC has far too much crime and deserve better from their elected officials. It's time to retire Mendelsohn and replace him with someone who wants to reduce crime in this city.

Jaylin said...

Love the snarky last line to your post!

oboe said...

Mendelson would like to study DC arrest, indictment, and conviction rates in order to determine why so many repeat offenders are free.

How long has Mendelson been in office? 10? 11 years? Well, you know what, after a *fucking* decade of inaction and excuses, maybe it's time to study why so many repeat offenders go free.

Anonymous said...

If you really want to know the ins and outs of criminal procedure, talk to someone at the Public Defender Service. They aren't trying to defend a conviction record, they aren't trying to get reelected, they're full time employees doing a job: representing individuals charged with crimes and trying to get them a fair trial. They'll tell you how the system works, who walks and why, and more. It's the one group nobody's talked to yet. Try it.

KStreetQB said...

I have your crime bill:

As of January 1, 2010 appartments shall not qualify for section 8 housing subsidies unless the apartment is in a mixed income building.

The end.

I see a group of squad cars in my neighborhood multiple times a week. They're always at the same failed poverty warehousing experiment.