- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Relatives of homicide victims and neighborhood leaders lambasted the Metropolitan Police Department in general and police Chief Charles H. Ramsey in particular last night during a D.C. Council committee hearing on police performance in homicide investigations.
More than 100 people attended the meeting, breaking into cheers and applause when witnesses testified that police were failing to do enough to address violence.
The meeting was held inside the auditorium at Roosevelt High School in Ward 4, where the 4th Police District is located, covering the Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Fort Totten, Shepherd Park and Petworth neighborhoods.
Warren Richards, whose son was slain in the District in 1995, testified that the continuing investigation into his son's death was "shabby."
"I know it's been a long time, but it still kind of burns inside," said Mr. Richards, adding that he had not been contacted by detectives about the status of the case for more than a year and a half.
He said he even has had difficulty in the past finding out from police which detective is assigned to the case.
Chief Ramsey told the gathering that the department has been steadily improving. The rate at which detectives close their cases, for instance, was less than 50 percent in 2001 but now stands at nearly 55 percent.
"I do not want to leave the impression that I consider average to be good enough," he said. The improvement "brings us up to the nationwide average for cities our size [but] it is not good enough," the chief said in an attempt to restore calm at the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee's public round table.
"At least over the past year we have begun heading in the right direction when it comes to clearing homicide cases," Chief Ramsey said.
While the homicide-closure rate for 2002 was an improvement over the rate in 2001, it was substantially below the 70 percent closure rate in 1997 the year before Chief Ramsey took charge of the police force.
The number of homicides in 2002 rose in six of the city's seven police districts, according to statistics compiled by the police department's Central Crime Analysis Unit. In 2001 there were 231 homicides; in 2002 there were 262 a 13 percent increase.
The 1st Police District, covering much of downtown and most of Capitol Hill, experienced the sharpest increase with 23 killings in 2002 compared with nine in 2001. The 4th District, covering much of the Northwest quadrant of the city east of Rock Creek Park, showed a 41 percent increase with 29 homicides in 2001 and 41 in 2002.
As of yesterday, the city had 10 homicides so far this year, a number unchanged from the like period in 2002.
While preliminary statistics compiled by D.C. police indicate the total number of reported crimes in the District was down 2 percent last year, the homicide rate rose to its highest level since Chief Ramsey took over in 1998.
The chief, who last week entered negotiations with the office of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams for a renewal of his contract, has begun to come under some serious criticism for the first time during his tenure in the District.
"Where I stand today as a representative of 74,000 residents in Ward 4 is with a population that feels very much that more needs to be done," said D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, who hosted the meeting.
The 4th Police District suffered the sharpest jump in overall crime last year, up 13 percent from 2001. It also led the city in the number of violent crimes committed homicides, sexual assaults, robberies and assaults with a deadly weapon with 1,551, a 19 percent increase over 2001.
The number of homicides in the 4th District rose dramatically in 2002 41 compared with the 29 committed during 2001.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said during last night's meeting that violence "jeopardizes the economic recovery of the city."
"Adams Morgan is in revolt about police issues," he said. "Columbia Heights is in revolt about police issues. Mount Pleasant is in revolt. We want bold new effective initiatives from our police department and we will settle for nothing less."
Mr. Graham added that despite a minor improvement last year, the homicide-closure rate remains disappointingly low.


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