- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said an emergency crime-fighting initiative enacted in August has reduced crime and could continue through the end of the year.

The announcement comes days after FBI statistics showed the District has the nation’s highest homicide rate and ranks third in violent crimes per capita.

“It’s still far too violent for a city this size. I think we all recognize that,” Chief Ramsey said yesterday.

Citing an uptick in crime in many parts of the city, Chief Ramsey in August suspended Article 24 of the department’s collective-bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Police Labor Committee.

Doing so allowed Chief Ramsey to cancel scheduled days off, change shifts and reassign officers without the required 14 days’ notice. It was the first time the clause had been invoked because of a spike in crime.

According to police statistics, during the first 60 days the initiative was in place, nearly all categories of major crime decreased, compared with the same period last year.

Most significantly, homicides between Aug. 28 and Oct. 26 decreased to 34, down from 44 during the same period last year.

As of yesterday, there had been 209 killings in the District this year, a slight reduction from the 213 recorded at this time last year.

The chief said police are also making progress in their efforts to close homicide cases. He said so far this year, the closure rate is 55 percent. He said the national average for cities of similar size is 54 percent. The closure rate, for which the chief has been criticized, bottomed out at 48.5 percent in 2001.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he was pleased with improvements to the closure rate and with the apparent success of the chief’s crime-fighting initiative.

“I’m encouraged by the early results,” Mr. Williams said, adding, “We have a long way left to go.”

FBI statistics released last week show the District has most murders per capita of any U.S. city with a population above 500,000. The District ranked third in violent crime behind Detroit and Baltimore. The statistics include homicides, assaults, rapes and robberies.

“We have to constantly work to get our numbers down,” Chief Ramsey said. “They’re half of what they were 10 years ago. I mean, we were pushing almost 500 murders at one time in this city, and now it’s about half of that total.”

The image of the city as the homicide capital of the nation has been bolstered by several high-profile killings since the crime plan was initiated, including a running gunbattle between two gangs on 16th Street NW last month that killed one gang member and wounded a Metro bus driver.

Last week, an Anacostia High School football player was fatally shot when he was caught in the cross fire during a dispute between other students.

Chief Ramsey would not say when he would end the crime initiative. It was scheduled to end Sept. 30, but has been extended to Dec. 1.

The chief said he is comparing the percentage of officers assigned to shifts with reports of crime and calls for service and trying to adjust manpower accordingly as part of a long-term solution, but he suggested the crime plan could be in place through the end of the year.

“That’s what we’re looking at now,” Chief Ramsey said. “I will suspend it for as long as I need to, until I feel that we’re properly aligned to the point where we can do this without a suspension of the contract.”

He said Article 24 is part of a union contract he inherited, and that it is “on the table for renegotiation” as part of a contract that expired in September.


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