Overall Crime Down In D.C., Say City Officials
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said 17 of this year’s killings involved people under supervision for prior crimes. Alex Brandon / AP
According to testimony from city officials, overall crime in the District is down from last year and homicides are below what they were over the last three years.
“While overall crime is down nine percent, violent crime in particular is down 25 percent,” said Kevin Donahue, D.C.’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, during a hearing at the D.C. Council on Wednesday morning. “We’ve seen a 30 percent reduction in robberies, a 20 percent reduction in assaults with a deadly weapon and a 15 percent reduction in homicides.”
There have been 92 homicides so far this year. For the same time period last year, there were 105. Homicides have been on a downward trend since 2015, when they spiked at 162 during Mayor Muriel Bowser’s first year in office. The lowest count in the last half-century was 88 killings in 2012, under then-Mayor Vincent Gray.
But D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told Council members that 17 of this year’s killings involved people under supervision for prior crimes, a perennial problem that has raised questions about sentencing, probation and parole for violent felons.
“They’re supposed to be under supervision, and they went out and murdered someone,” he said.
Newsham said that some 17,000 people are under some form of court supervision in D.C., which is managed by Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for D.C., or CSOSA, a federal agency. Of those, he said 300 are under GPS monitoring.
“To me it suggests that we need to look at those folks a little closer,” he added.
“You’d be amazed at the number of those under GPS that are either in or around violent crimes when they occur,” he said. “Maybe we should give some consideration to maybe expanding that category — maybe there’s a few more of those 17,000. Having that GPS information provides the police department, sometimes with suspects, but most certainly with witnesses to violent crimes.”
Newsham told the Council that a new program that gives D.C. residents up to $500 to buy security cameras for the exterior of their homes has been helpful for the department. As of the end of August, over 7,000 security cameras had been purchased by D.C. residents.
“One of the things that’s been very beneficial to us is the prevalence of cameras in the city,” he said.
But he said that a consistent concern is illegal firearms in the city, which played a part in the deaths of Zaire Kelly and Jamahri Sydnor. Kelly and Sydnor were two high school students shot and killed in separate incidents in Ward 5 over the last two months.
“Some people have suggested that young people carry firearms in our community out of fear for their own personal well-being,” Newsham said. “That’s unacceptable. A young person with a firearm is a recipe for disaster. That person’s life is going to be destroyed, and if they pull the trigger, whoever they hit, their life will be destroyed as well.”
“If you see a young person with an illegal firearm, let us know,” he added. “We’re not trying to hurt them, but you’re probably doing them a favor. The police come and intervene in that before they use the firearm and we have someone dead.”