- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The D.C. area’s increasingly high-end neighborhoods do not provide a haven from gang violence, police department officials say.

The number of gang-related crimes are still “creeping up” in the Washington area, Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook said. Overall, crime numbers last year were generally on par with those in 2011, although the area saw increases in rape, larceny and aggravated assault.

The discussion came Wednesday during a presentation of crime trends before the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Statistics indicate that rape increased 15 percent in the region, larceny went up 5 percent and aggravated assault rose 14 percent from 2011 to last year.

While a persistent regional gang problem is troubling, Chief Cook said it was not immediately clear how much of the crime increase was attributable to gangs. The area’s mobile populace and increasingly affluent neighborhoods attract gangs that crop up in one county, disappear and then reappear in a new one.


“They want to live in penthouses and nice neighborhoods like anybody else,” Chief Cook said. “They live with everyone else, and they don’t leave until the community and the law enforcement work together to force them out.”

The Council of Governments includes representatives from the District; Montgomery, Prince George’s, Frederick and Charles counties in Maryland; Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun counties in Virginia; as well as the incorporated jurisdictions within those counties and the city of Alexandria. Members also addressed Northern Virginia’s ongoing issues with combating sex trafficking, which often is tied to gang activity. Limited resources, including a lack of technology and undercover detectives, hinders investigation into the world of trafficking, police department officials said.

Prince William Board of County Supervisors member Frank J. Principi said efforts have suffered from $142 million in regional law enforcement funding cuts since the economic downturn.

“Regarding gang violence, I’m concerned that we address sex trafficking whether or not we have appropriate funding and staffing,” he said, noting that human trafficking is an organized crime, and gangs are often behind the forceful prostitution of young girls in the region.

“With the area’s growing population, we’re going to see more crime, but we need to deal with this issue head-on and not react years later,” Mr. Principi said.

A report on the crime trends also mentioned a regional increase in cybercrime, which was said to be “increasing at a dramatic rate.”

Officials usually learn about cybercrime directly from residents, who call to alert police about evidence of identity theft or Web-based fraud schemes. Online perpetrators are unique in that a large percentage reside in foreign countries, limiting the options of local law-enforcement in dealing with them.