- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Violent crime, except homicide, increased 6 percent in the District of Columbia during the first four weeks of the redeployment of 800 officers to street patrols, internal police documents obtained by The Washington Times show.

The documents compare reported crime in the city between four weeks prior to Aug. 22, when the deployment began, and the first four weeks after that. The 800 additional officers are divided into four groups of 200 who work one week of night shifts rather than their office jobs.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he has not seen the crime statistics compiled by his department, but added that the figures do not indicate the deployment program is not a success.

Despite the 6 percent rise in violent crime, overall reported crime is down 4 percent for the year, compared to the same period in 1999, the chief noted, adding that it is premature to judge the program after only a month.

"It was designed to put more people on the streets, and that's what we will continue to do," Chief Ramsey said. "I could care less what the numbers show right now. I'm going to continue it and try to make a difference."

The city's top public-safety official agreed with the chief's assessment.

Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, appointed last week as deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said a rash of fatal shootings sparked the deployment, so the 57 percent drop in homicides is "great news."

She added that the first four weeks of the deployment is too short a period to judge its effectiveness. "If crime went down 6 percent, no one would be declaring victory," Ms. Nedelkoff Kellems said. "Who knows what the [crime] increase would have been without the increase [in officers]?"

The internal documents show that sexual assaults, robberies, assaults with deadly weapons, burglaries and thefts increased after the officers were deployed.

But in the same period, homicides decreased 57 percent, and auto theft and thefts from vehicles also decreased.

The crime report also shows that overall crime increased in four of the seven police districts. The 3rd District, in the central part of the city, had a 25 percent increase of overall reported crime the highest increase of the seven districts during the four-week period in the city.

The 3rd District had a 200 percent increase in sexual assaults, a 40 percent increase in robberies and a 26 percent increase in assaults with deadly weapons. It was the only district that had an increase in stolen autos and thefts from vehicles both more than 25 percent increases.

D.C. Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, who has criticized Chief Ramsey for not putting enough officers on the streets, said, "I don't know what to make of these numbers, to be perfectly honest. I'm at a loss for what they mean."

He said "it's too early to tell" if the deployment is deterring crime.

Regardless of the statistics, Mr. Catania said, "I'm a firm believer that a more proactive police department with a greater presence on the street will deter crime. These numbers don't do anything to undermine that belief.

"I appreciate the chief's effort to be responsive to the council and to getting more officers on the street," Mr. Catania said, "but I still think far too few officers are assigned to the street. No reasonable person in this city believes fewer officers on the street is better."

The D.C. Council in May passed a bill, pushed by Mr. Catania, that requires Chief Ramsey to present by January a plan to assign 60 percent of officers to community policing in the department's police service area plan.

Chief Ramsey has said 47 percent of the department's officers already are on patrol and further deployments could harm the work of specialized units that focus on, for example, narcotics or sex crimes.

Mr. Catania said he doubts the accuracy of crime statistics because "there's an effort to suppress accurate reporting of crime, and to be sure, an effort to reduce the severity of crimes reported."

For Ms. Nedelkoff Kellems, the police department's statistics don't shake her confidence in the deployment. "A greater police presence does have a greater deterrence value," she said. "It's working. It's what everybody wanted. It's the right thing to do."

Chief Ramsey said the department's crime-analysis unit is compiling other crime statistics during the first four weeks of the redeployment program.

"I'd have to read the circumstance [of the deployment comparison statistics]," he said. "They are faxing this stuff to you before they are faxing it me."

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