The District is unlikely to receive federal funding for more police officers, even amid reports of increases in violent crime since the September 11 terrorist attacks, said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
The consensus on Capitol Hill is the city has sufficient protection with its 22 local and federal law enforcement agencies, said Mrs. Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative. She said the homeland defense bill will likely pay for more police equipment, not officers, in the District.
“You have to be more specific than to say [to Congress you need money] to protect D.C. You won’t get any money unless we first show they [police] are being systemically affected,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. Members of Congress “will argue they are already paying for that.”
Mrs. Norton was commenting on a Monday report in The Washington Times about an increase in the city’s homicide rate since the September 11 terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
The Times reported Monday that 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 increased the number to 186.
D.C. Council members Kathy Patterson, Ward 4 Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, and Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, said homicides have increased because police officers have been diverted from the neighborhoods to protect local and federal installations.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that Mayor Anthony A. Williams has authorized overtime pay to put more officers in the neighborhoods, and that officials have been documenting the deployment of officers needed to protect the city against terrorism. He said the city will request federal funding for the additional costs.
Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, did not return calls seeking comment about the costs and the rise in the homicide rate.
Officers were taken out of neighborhood patrols and put in civil disturbance units after the September 11 attacks. Most of the units remained on alert near the downtown area. “We didn’t [know] what else was going happen,” Chief Ramsey said.
He said staffing needs returned to normal about a week ago and officers have resumed their regular patrols.
Local officials “are fighting to get as many people on the streets as possible,” the chief said. “People are afraid, but I don’t have any more people than I had September 10th.”
Chief Ramsey said the police department is still providing officers to protect the president and vice president in addition to guarding rail yards, water supplies and water treatment plants. He said 80 officers work overtime per day.
Chief Ramsey said there is no direct link between the terrorist attacks and the increase in homicides, adding that there have been unexplained increases in crime before.
“It is not something the people of the District of Columbia has not experienced before,” he said. “We’ve had spikes in crimes before. This is the first serious spike we’ve had this year.”
He said many of the homicides could not have been prevented even if terrorism were not a factor. “A lot were arguments. Some were drug deals,” he said.
Mrs. Norton said Chief Ramsey could get some help if Congress passes a bill she introduced that would allow the mayor to mobilize the D.C. National Guard. The country’s 50 governors can mobilize their local National Guard units, but only the president can mobilize the D.C. Guard.
“The mayor could call out the National Guard to help patrol our streets next time,” said Mrs. Norton, who introduced the bill Oct. 12.