Monday, November 5, 2001

D.C. Council members believe an unusual rise in homicides since the September 11 attacks is due to police officers being taken off street patrol to guard federal complexes against terrorists.
Police officials can’t explain the increase in killings, but they doubt fewer cops on the beat is the reason the District is averaging one homicide a day now double the homicide rate prior to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Police had hoped a decline in homicides 135 persons were killed as of Sept. 10 would continue, helping end the year with fewer than 200 killings. But shootings and knifings in almost every quadrant of the city since then have already increased the number to 186.
The 51 homicides since September 11 include two postal workers who died from anthrax inhalation.
“We were poised to be under 200 this year. Then September 11 happened,” said Cmdr. John L. “Jack” Barrett Jr., superintendent of detectives for the Metropolitan Police Department.
Cmdr. Barrett, however, added that it is unlikely the increase in homicides has anything to do with taking officers out of neighborhoods to guard federal buildings and monuments.
In most cases, the killers were standing close to their victims, so the killings could not have been prevented even if there were additional patrols in the neighborhoods, he said in an interview with The Washington Times.
The homicides have occurred throughout the city, Cmdr. Barrett said. “There is no common element.”
The latest killing occurred Saturday night when an 18-year-old man was found shot near Rhode Island Avenue and North Capitol Street in Northwest. Police know of no motive, and no arrests have been made.
On Friday night, another unidentified man was shot three times in the face on 36th Street in Notheast, according to homicide detectives. Police had no suspects in either case, as of yesterday.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 4 Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, said the homicide statistics confirm complaints council members have had since Oct. 5 that police officers are being diverted to guard federal complexes rather than the city’s neighborhoods.
Council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, also disagrees with Cmdr. Barrett. She believes that taking large numbers of officers out of the neighborhood and using them to guard federal buildings is the only explanation for the rise in killings.
“The police are not in the neighborhoods,” Mrs. Ambrose said. “One day we had 20-something officers guarding the vice president’s mansion. You didn’t see a homicide on Massachusetts Avenue, did you? We had [homicides] in the neighborhoods [though].”
She said a police lieutenant who works in the H Street Northeast corridor told her that he has lost ground stopping criminals because he has fewer officers in the area. “I think the federal government should use their own people instead of using our officers as their front line of defense.”
Mrs. Patterson said she has heard complaints from other council members that there are too few officers in the city’s neighborhoods.
“I think it underscores that we need to know what is going on and ensure there is a police presence through the District,” Mrs. Patterson said. “It is one of the things I have been saying we need to renegotiate our relationship with [the federal government] as to who does what and who pays for it. The city cannot afford having our homicide caseload going back up.”
Baltimore is also watching its homicide rate increase faster than normal. There, police officials do blame the rise on the transfer of officers from the streets to protect the city from terrorism, The Baltimore Sun reported.
D.C. police records show the spree of killings started on Sept. 12, with homicides in the 6th District in Northeast and 1st District in the central part of the city.
There was a lull after that until Sept. 20, when three persons were killed in Southwest, Northeast and Southeast.
The three killings happened on the same day Mayor Anthony A. Williams donated blood for the victims of the terrorist attacks.
So far this year, only the 2nd District, which is mostly west of Rock Creek Park, has not had a homicide.
But the number of assaults with a deadly weapon has increased 21 percent in the 2nd District, climbing to 135 through Oct. 31, from 112 during the same period in 2000.

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