Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Violent crime rates have changed little in the District since Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey declared a citywide crime emergency nearly a month ago.

According to police statistics, the city had 21 homicides last month, when Chief Ramsey declared the crime emergency, and 20 in June.

In addition, there were 309 reports of assaults with a deadly weapon last month, compared with 311 such reports in June. Sexual assaults numbered 33 last month and 38 in June.

Last month, Mayor Anthony A. Williams said the crime emergency’s goal was to decrease crime by 50 percent in 30 days.

Yesterday, city officials defended the crime emergency, saying that arrests and enforcement have improved even if the crime rate has not.

“Our real goal would be to eliminate crime 100 percent and to have zero crime in the city,” said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Mr. Williams. “You set a goal, and you know the reality is there’s crime in every city.

“We think we’ve made amazing progress in just the few short weeks since the emergency has been declared,” he said.

Police statistics show that arrests have increased 21 percent, firearm recoveries have increased 46 percent and curfew violation citations have increased 177 percent since the emergency began.

“Stretch goals are something you have in order to achieve as much as you possibly can,” said Chief Ramsey, who declared the emergency July 12. “We’re dealing with a very serious crime problem, and it’s not easy to get rid of. We’re working as hard as we can.”

Within the first few hours of the emergency being declared, two groups of tourists were robbed on the Mall, but there have been no additional incidents there since then.

The Mall is patrolled by the U.S. Park Police, which has increased its deployment of officers in the area since the crime emergency went into effect.

Police statistics for last month, which tallied 3,042 crimes, are nearly identical to those for July 2005, which numbered 3,034 crimes.

“Every month has its own unique characteristics,” Chief Ramsey said. “Each month is so different in terms of trends — the weather, school being in and out of session, etc.”

Chief Ramsey declared the emergency after the slaying of a British activist in Georgetown, the District’s 13th homicide in 11 days.

On July 19, Mr. Williams called the D.C. Council out of its summer recess to push through emergency anti-crime legislation that allows closed-circuit surveillance cameras in neighborhoods and institutes a 10 p.m. weeknight curfew for city teens through the end of this month.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, an at-large Democrat running for mayor, helped pass the legislation. She said she is satisfied with the emergency’s results.

“I never anticipated that there would be a specific huge [crime] reduction,” she said. “What I wanted to see was a deterrent to crime.”

Council member Adrian Fenty, a Ward 4 Democrat running for mayor, voted against the anti-crime legislation. He said the crime rate is not falling because officials are not tackling the problem.

“Crime in the District … is not being adequately addressed,” Mr. Fenty said. “The way to reduce it permanently requires internal work inside the government.”

This is the third summer in four years that Chief Ramsey has declared a crime emergency and the fourth time overall since he became chief in 1998. The chief announced an emergency in 2003 to stem a surge in homicides and in 2004 to curb a spate of car thefts by juveniles.

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