- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

Local and federal law-enforcement officials yesterday announced the formation of a Violent Crime Task Force to combat an increase in crime in the District that has led to the declaration of a crime emergency.

The announcement came just a few hours before Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed into law a package of emergency measures approved during a D.C. Council special session on Wednesday.

“Our goal is to reduce violent crime in the city by 50 percent over the next 30 days in every area of the District of Columbia,” said Mr. Williams, a Democrat.

The initiatives, which the mayor described as “common-sense changes that enjoy overwhelming community support,” will authorize overtime funds for Metropolitan Police Department officers to work six-day shifts, change the juvenile curfew from midnight to 10 p.m., and obtain and place surveillance cameras in city neighborhoods hardest hit by crime.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday it would likely take a couple of weeks to decide on camera locations and to get them deployed. He said the police department would also give at least five days notice before the new curfew hours go into effect.

Chief Ramsey said the department has detected a “slight decline” in crime since the emergency was declared on July 11. He attributed the change to a combination of additional police presence and officers making more arrests. There were 13 homicides in the first 11 days of the month. There have been three in the 10 days since.

The announcement of the task force was made by U.S. Attorney for the District Kenneth L. Wainstein, Mr. Williams, Chief Ramsey and Michael Mines, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

The heads of practically every federal and local law-enforcement agency in the District were also on hand and have pledged their support to the crime-fighting effort.

Mr. Mines said the task force’s headquarters will be in the field office and will be staffed by nine to 10 FBI agents, 13 city officers, and prosecutors and investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The FBI will provide agents to work surveillance in robbery cases, conduct undercover operations and expedite requests for tests conducted at the bureau’s forensics lab in Quantico, Va.

Mr. Wainstein said prosecutors will work longer hours to accommodate officers, identify juveniles who should be charged as adults and seek wherever possible to have robbery suspects held without bond while awaiting trial.

Police and court officials will also work to ensure that defendants set free pending trial meet the conditions of their release.

“There’s no reason for D.C. not to be the safest city in America, but it’s going to take a collective effort to do that,” Chief Ramsey said, adding that the measures were temporary and that many of the root social causes of crime still need to be addressed.

“If you’re bleeding, you have to stop the bleeding, then worry about the surgery to repair it,” he said. “Right now what we’re in the process of doing is stopping the bleeding.”

Officials expect to address long-term solutions to violent crime at a summit in the next two months.

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