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Shaw Crime Forum: Residents Vent, Mendelson Explains System

by Borderstan.com December 15, 2009 at 7:58 am 1,632 2 Comments

Phil Mendelson Shaw dc crime Luis Gomez Photos

Last night at the Shaw crime forum: Councilmember Phil Mendelson. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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 DupontLogan 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.

Cary at The Other 35 Percent was there last night and he has a detailed (but easy to read and digest) posting on last night’s meeting. I think his summary paragraph best gives you the major points:

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.

Yes, I did get to ask Mendelson my question, “Why is DC’s murder rate 4.56 times higher than New York City’s?” I got no explanation or theory as to why our homicide rate and other violent crimes are staggeringly high compared to other major cities.

However, I think I did manage to get Mendelson to agree that our violent crime numbers are “staggering” in comparison to New York; pretty sure he nodded “yes” and agreed. Does this constitute a small victory? I don’t know, but I do know that DC needs to have this discussion, difficult and painful as it might be.

We’re all busy patting ourselves on the back because murders have declined to 134 this year (as of Dec. 10) in a population of 588,000 people. New York City, with 8,274,000 people, had 413 murders as of November 22. Here is the ugly reality: If DC’s homicide rate were the same as that of New York City, our number would be 29 murders–not 134.

As a city (and that means all of us), we have not even begun to deal with the issue of violent crime. During last night’s forum, while detailed explanations of a dozen or so different types of crime laws were discussed and explained, I kept thinking to myself, “It’s all just band aids. There is no comprehensive approach.” (In the short-term, though, it will be interesting to see if the new anti-gang bill being introduced by Evans gets anywhere in the Council.)

What this city needs is a full-front approach to dealing with violent crime along the lines of the mayor’s push to reform DC’s public school system. We know there is no problem getting the DC Council actively involved with that issue.

For now, go read Cary’s posting; he can give you details on last night’s crime forum in Shaw. In addition, here is Mike DeBonis’ (City Paper Loose Lips) first take:

Last night, Phil Mendelson met with a handful of citizens from the Shaw/Mount Vernon Square area to talk crime. Jack Evans was there, too, as were reps from the U.S. attorney’s office and MPD. LL stopped in after the gay marriage rally, early enough to see Evans and USAO’s Albert Herring sniping over prosecutions. LL will share further thoughts later, but do check out Cary Silverman‘s rundown of the meeting. The biggish news: ‘Mendelson committed to looking at a Chicago-style anti-loitering ordinance, moving away from his longstanding opposition to such laws as a violation of liberty.’

  • Avi

    Mendelsohn is right with his original statement: It’s not a legislative issue. He did his part…made the laws. What happens after that is someone else’s problem. Let’s see how much farther we can kick this can down the road.

    I like how that crap-weasel blamed the US Attorney’s office. Though hardly pure, and free of sin, I can’t swallow that the buck stops with them.

  • “[Mendelson] wants funding to examine the District’s revolving door.”

    Mendelson has got to be kidding us.

    What we need, Sir, is not for you to call upon the Council to play think tank for another year, using the public’s money to fund a study to show you what the public is already dealing with at street level. We need you to open your eyes to the fact that we see the revolving door in our neighborhoods, even if you don’t see it in Cleveland Park.

    Indeed, if the revolving door were spitting people onto the streets near the Uptown Theater, instead of around the old Howard Theatre, Mendelson’s perspective might change.

    Or, if it didn’t, his base up there would contribute to changing who is on Council.

    When it comes to that revolving door, Mendelson doesn’t need a study. He’s already drawn his own conclusion. He said it in the Council Chamber during debate on the recent Omnibus Crime Bill:

    “It’s not clear how real that revolving door is.”

    Is it real outside your window, is it real to the officers protecting your block, is it real to the prosecutors watching a stream of familiar faces?

    Well, we need a study, don’t we.


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