- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

"Homicide rate hits one-per-day level." That was bound to be a headline in this newspaper, considering that the pace of homicides quickened in July, when 33 persons were killed. It was the bloodiest month in the city since Charles Ramsey became chief in April 1998. Meanwhile, the department also has a low homicide-closure rate 47 percent compared to the 51 percent he promised Mayor Williams.
So, what does the District's top cop have to say for himself and the bloodied streets? "Obviously, it's disappointing. We'd had a steady decline."
Disappointing? The chief is disappointing, because of the lack of oversight and urgency with which he is pursuing violence prevention. Disappointing is the chief's time and attention to car-seat, seatbelt and other traffic issues vs. violent crimes.
Since the September 11 attacks, the Metropolitan Police Department has spent an inordinate amount of resources in pursuit of Big Brother operations. Closed-circuit cameras now watch motorists' every move, while foot and bicycle patrols are practically nonexistent. Checkpoints nab mothers for not wearing their seatbelts, while murderers, burglars and car thieves prowl the streets.
To be sure, overall crime, including sexual assault, is down 3.5 percent. But that is hardly solace in neighborhoods where homicide is on the rise.
In the First Police District, which includes Capitol Hill, there have been twice as many homicides so far this year, 16, compared to last.
In the Second Police District, which is west of Rock Creek Park, there have been three killings this year compared to none this time last year.
In the Fourth Police District, which includes neighborhoods east of Rock Creek and north toward Western Avenue NW, there is a 25 percent increase in homicides including a victim in the sniper case.
The raw numbers tell two other chilling tales. In 2001, there were 233 homicides in the District the lowest number since 1987. So far this year, there are 242 with a slaying occurring roughly every 33 hours.
The rise in homicides and the fact that violent offenders are not apprehended in a majority of killings are unacceptable. "The fact that over 50 percent [of homicides] are not being closed and people are free to commit violence again is an issue of the highest priority for the safety of our residents and our children," Terry Lynch, head of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, told us Tuesday. He also has urged D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, to hold oversight hearings. Unfortunately, Mrs. Patterson wants to wait two months.
Residents cannot afford to wait. By then, who knows? Not Mrs. Patterson, who handily won re-election and might not chair the judiciary panel in February. By then, the council will be in throes of budget talks for fiscal 2004. If Mrs. Patterson has guts (and there are lots of reasons to believe she does), she will put the chief on the hot spot this month for the public benefit. After all, Chief Ramsey said the problem with preventing and solving these crimes has nothing to do with manpower. "I don't think manpower is an issue at this point," he told reporter Matthew Cella of The Washington Times. "I'd put more manpower in there if that's what they needed." For the record, he said the same thing following Bloody July.
This is unconscionable a police department that neither prevents crime, nor solves crimes.
Mayor Williams, fresh off his own re-election victory and pondering a new Cabinet, needs to ask himself: Can the city afford, in terms of lives and limbs, another four years of Chief Ramsey?

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