Walking by dirty neo-hippies in McPherson Square isn't the biggest problem with the Occupy movement. The ongoing protest is making Washington streets less safe.
Since breaking out on Oct. 1, the cost to the city of supporting, protecting and cleaning up after Occupy D.C. has been $1.6 million - and counting. According to D.C. police union head Kristopher Baumann, District residents can now start tabulating the cost of the movement in crimes. Compared to the previous year, violent and overall crime has increased since Occupy D.C. was unleashed. From the beginning of October to Dec. 15, violent crime is up by 13 percent and total crime is up by 10 percent compared to the same time period in 2010. Overall crime in the city is up by 2 percent for 2011.
Making the increase in lawbreaking worse is the city's obfuscation on the crime statistics and policing of the movement. Mayor Vincent Gray and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier have claimed that police officers monitoring occupiers haven't been pulled out of neighborhoods of the taxpayers who fund the department. But according to police logs produced by Mr. Baumann, they have been reassigned on a daily basis with detrimental results for their regular beats.
"Your failure to warn District residents about a double digit spike in crime is inexcusable," Mr. Baumann wrote in an angry letter to Mr. Gray last week. "The public has a right to know when crime is increasing and public awareness can facilitate crime prevention. As the [Fraternal Order of Police, Mr. Baumann's organization] made clear with your one-term predecessor, risking public safety for political advantage is not an acceptable practice." A spokesman for the mayor said he would respond by letter to Mr. Baumann and that it would "probably" be released to the public.
Mr. Gray has supported the protest movement, particularly once some of its members embraced his misguided campaign for D.C. statehood. The tacit message to tolerate the movement has been passed throughout the city bureaucracy. Chief Lanier even gave her cellphone number to demonstrators, according to the Daily Beast. At times, legal transgressions by the movement are overlooked. "The frustration for me and my officers is these guys are drinking on the streets and doing things that we would lock residents up for and they're getting away with it and that isn't right," Mr. Baumann explained to Anneke E. Green of The Washington Times.
Mr. Baumann is asking Mr. Gray not only to correct his misleading comments but apologize for the misinformation. The local representative for the "thin blue line" has a different message for the occupiers: "Maybe it's time that they step back and say, 'we're harming regular folks we're claiming to represent so maybe it's time for us to move elsewhere or tone it down.' "
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