Sunday, July 14, 2024

Opinion | D.C. leaders’ summit on crime should include some introspection

Opinion | D.C. leaders’ summit on crime should include some introspection

If all goes as planned, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) will host a “public safety summit” on Wednesday to address crime in the District. What other choice is there? Violence is on a roll in our nation’s capital. Homicides are up 12 percent over the same time last year. Robberies are up 13 percent; assaults with dangerous weapons up 2 percent; and sexual abuse up 53 percent. Motor vehicle theft has rocketed sky high, registering a 110 percent rise. Citywide, crime has increased 27 percent overall.

Carjackings, at 252 and counting, are up 43 percent.

Most striking, the vast majority — 74 percent — of carjackings have involved guns, and 61 percent of those arrested for the crime this year have been juveniles. Also noteworthy, the police have closed only 47 carjackings this year (and that count might include carjackings from previous years).

The juvenile crime spree is the talk of the town. A local TV headline screamed: “DC juvenile crime surge: Cops charge two 12-year-olds in separate crime sprees including armed carjacking.” And that’s not including the three teens shot in separate incidents within two hours on Sunday.

If ever there was a time to call together all the key players in the District’s public safety and criminal justice ecosystem — the police chief, the U.S. attorney, D.C. attorney general, the chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court, key D.C. Council members and community stakeholders — it is now. This public safety summit, openly and collaboratively exploring issues as an action-directed body, has the potential to produce worthwhile criminal justice outcomes.

This, however, is not the time for back-patting over past progress in reducing crimes from the levels seen 10 years or so ago.

This is the moment for city leaders to face up to the effect that out-of-control mayhem is having on all residents, including families and children and visitors to the city — the people who are bearing the brunt and fear of crime.

Yes, this is a good time for leaders to get steeped in residents’ experiences, as they listen to grass-root accounts of what it’s like in the community and on the streets. But it is also time — long past time — for public safety and criminal justice leaders to take a closer look at themselves and each other. It’s time for them to examine where they are succeeding but also to face up to where they are falling short. They need to figure out whether what they are doing — or are failing to do — hurts or aids public safety.

The summit can be time well spent. Or a waste of taxpayer dollars. The answer is in the hands of Bowser and her assembled leaders.

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