- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

The issues that dominated the metropolitan Washington area were obvious after September 11: the grinding search for survivors in the Pentagon rubble, the vulnerabilities in the region's emergency preparedness and the panic that erupted over anthrax-laced mail.
Amid the September 11 aftermath, other stories that might otherwise be front-page news were going on but subject to much less notice, most notably the surge in crime and the resolution of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project's labor dispute.
Before the terrorist attacks, the District was on target to end the year with fewer than 200 murders, the lowest rate in about 10 years. By Sept. 10, 135 persons had been killed. But the total now stands at 213, after a rash of fatal shootings and stabbings in almost every quadrant of the city since then.
Between September 11 and Dec. 10, there were 78 killings, compared to 53 for the same time last year, according to statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Police Department. Other crimes also increased (see chart).
D.C. police officials took officers off the street-patrol beats immediately after the attacks so they could help guard federal complexes and embassies against terrorists.
Many people, including some D.C. Council members, have blamed the increase in some crimes on the smaller number of police officers on the streets.
"It's very obvious that so many of our people were fulfilling roles at federal buildings and could not be out in the neighborhoods," said D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican. "It's a very unfair situation we're in. We're given very little when it comes to voting rights, yet we're expected to fulfill all these duties."
Other council members agree.
"There's no doubt that if you have a smaller police presence there will be more crime in the streets," said D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, a Democrat.
"We have a responsibility in the District to support the federal presence," Mrs. Cropp said. "But not at the cost of leaving my neighborhoods uncovered. I have an equally strong sense of protection for my neighborhood as I do for my country."

Local police defend role
Police officials, however, say crime is down 6 percent from last year, and most of the killings that occurred could not have been prevented.
In an interview with The Washington Times last week, D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey defended his decision to deploy about 100 city police officers to federal installations, the railroad and water filtration systems and reservoirs, particularly in the first 10 days after the attacks.
"We are required by law to provide assistance to the federal government if needed and at no cost to the agency," he said. "So it's not like I had an option."
Chief Ramsey said he also assigned officers to guard mosques and synagogues when the places of worship received threats.
"That was something that was well within my scope of authority. I don't feel I need to apologize for that," he said.
The chief said the increase in killings doesn't have anything to do with taking officers out of neighborhoods to provide assistance for the federal government. In most cases, the killers were involved in at-risk behavior such as drug dealing.
"We're fighting a perception that there are fewer officers on the streets now. That's simply not true," said Chief Ramsey, noting that homicides were down from last year. In 2000, the District had 242 homicides, compared with 205 as of Dec. 2 this year.
"I can understand that people are scared right now and they want to be protected. And I want to assure them that we are going to continue to fight crime. But the bottom line is you can't put a police officer on every corner," he said.
Chief Ramsey said most of the officers currently guarding the federal buildings work for the department's special-operations division, whose primary duty is to provide such protection, not to patrol neighborhoods. That deployment will come to an end soon, he said.
Prince George's County police also are contending with a dramatic increase in homicides this year.
As of this week, the county has registered 114 homicides for the year; 12 having occurred since Dec. 2. That number is up from 71 for all of last year.
"I really don't know why we're seeing this sharp spike this year, but it is a disturbing trend," Maj. Gary A. Corso of the county's Criminal Investigations Division said this month.
Montgomery County which had 12 homicides all of last year and 13 the previous year also has seen a dramatic rise, recording 18 through Nov. 23.

FBI cases set aside
On a national level, the FBI the leading agency investigating the terrorist attacks had to shift assignments in the wake of the attacks.
The FBI's 56 field offices across the country initially put aside some undercover drug investigations, the pursuit of nonviolent fugitives and white-collar crimes, as 4,000 of its estimated 12,000 agents were deployed to investigate the terrorist acts.
A recent analysis, conducted by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse program for the Associated Press, found a 76 percent drop in the number of cases referred by the FBI for federal prosecutions in the weeks after the attacks.
The analysis also shows and FBI officials confirmed that fewer cases were filed between Sept. 12 and 30 than in the same period last year. These cases involved drugs, bank robberies, illegal immigration and white-collar crime.
"Initially things were dropped so our agents could focus on terrorist attacks and on the anthrax investigation," said one FBI official who did not want to be identified.
But since the attacks have turned into an international investigation, more agents have returned to their usual assignments, said Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman.
"Many investigative leads have been followed through [since the attacks], and that allowed us to start going back to normal circumstances," Mr. Carter said.

Woodrow Wilson Bridge
Traffic congestion, always a big issue in the metropolitan Washington area, has seen several projects slip from the public eye in the wake of September 11.
Virginia and Maryland after years of wrangling and lawsuits finally got the go-ahead for the 12-lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement in August when the federal government gave approval for an agreement between the states.
Now, finally a few months into construction, the estimated $2.4 billion project has hit a few roadblocks, mostly over the use of labor-friendly agreements.
President Bush had issued an executive order in February barring project labor agreements (PLAs) which are collective bargaining agreements requiring employers to follow common work rules on projects using federal funds.
In November, a federal judge blocked the enforcement of the executive order, ruling that the president "lacked the requisite authority" for it.
With the question of who could submit bids unsettled, Maryland was forced to extend the deadline for contract bids.
Virginia which agreed to share costs with Maryland under the agreement does not want PLAs used, saying they will increase the price tag of the bridge. State officials sought help from the federal government, and early this month the Justice Department appealed the judge's order allowing the use of the labor agreements.
The first span of the twin-span bridge is expected to be completed by 2004, the second by 2006.

'Temporarily' closed?
The debate over street closures around the area also has changed since the attacks, which precipitated several closings around the District for security reasons.
Plans to reopen the two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House were gaining momentum. A House panel had approved a resolution in late July urging Mr. Bush to open that section, which had been closed since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
A federal task force had been considering a plan that would gradually make the avenue open to vehicular traffic again, with increased security.
The National Capital Planning Commission interagency task force eventually recommended keeping Pennsylvania Avenue closed and spending more than $98 million on permanent security and street improvements. The plan also included the beautification and security of monuments and memorials.
Right now, Washington looks very much like a city under siege but there is hope that will change.
Officials say the tighter security that's to be expected after the attacks will not be as visible as the concrete Jersey barriers that now border many of the memorials and that block Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House and the Ellipse.
These security measures will be made more aesthetically pleasing, with features like large flower planters, benches and lampposts to blend in with the L'Enfant design of Washington, D.C., said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's representative in Congress.
"We don't want to rebuild a city here," she said. "We hope to pick a design for the security measures that would be elegant."
Mrs. Norton has been among the most vocal advocates for getting the city back to normal.
In an interview with The Times, Mrs. Norton said the last thing federal officials should do is keep all the monuments closed.
"We don't want the District to look like an armed camp," said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. "We can't just shut everything down. We can't afford to do that."
In its recommendation, the task force called for the reopening of E Street NW, between 15th and 17th streets, near the White House. The street closed September 11.
But the street closure since then had some members reconsidering the task force's decision.
Richard L. Friedman, chairman of the task force, said that when it made its recommendation, the group assumed E Street would be reopened.
"It's an important artery for the city," Mr. Friedman said last month. "Frankly, nobody has given us a concrete reason as to why it shouldn't be reopened."
Two local lawmakers also appealed for the reopening of the street. Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, and Mrs. Norton sent a letter to Mr. Bush asking that E Street NW be reopened.
"We are concerned that E Street not become another Pennsylvania Avenue, the city's major east-west artery that was 'temporarily' closed for security reasons more than six years ago. We urge you to reopen E Street without further delay," they said in the letter sent last month.
Thus far, no plans have been introduced to reopen the street.
Can Washington go back to the way it was before September 11? Should it?
"I don't think we'll ever be normal again," Mrs. Cropp said. "We need to change so we're never as vulnerable as we were before September 11. But we do need to go back to some sense of normalcy, where we can function."

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