- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday said police have tracked crime decreases near the District’s neighborhood-surveillance cameras but that the cameras have not helped solve any cases in the seven weeks they have been deployed.

“To date, we have had a handful of cases in which detectives have reviewed video from the cameras, but none has produced useful evidence thus far,” he said.

Chief Ramsey said that in the locations where cameras were installed in August, violent crime has decreased by 73 percent and property crime has decreased by 57 percent when compared to the like period of 2005.

The chief’s comments came during a public round-table discussion before the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary about the effectiveness of the crime emergency declared July 11 in response to an uptick in homicides and robberies.

Chief Ramsey urged the council members not to judge the effectiveness of the crime emergency based on a spate of five killings in 24 hours Sunday and Monday that claimed three juveniles, adding that violent crime was down about 15 percent since July 12.

There have been 37 killings in the District since that date, compared to 50 over the like period last year.

The chief said about 3,000 curfew citations were issued between July 12 and Sept. 24 and that half of those were issued between 10 p.m. and midnight.

Patricia Riley, special counsel to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, testified that prosecutors had asked to have defendants detained until trial 110 times and that the court granted the request 73 times. She said 55 of those cases were for persons accused of carrying a handgun without a license.

Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said the efforts to curb crime were long overdue. “I am a very strong supporter of the steps that have been taken and I want to see it continue,” he said.

Several witnesses were critical of the anti-crime measures.

“The crime emergency bill is a joke. It’s a joke.” said Kenneth Barnes Sr., executive director of Reaching Out To Other Together Inc., or ROOT.

Mr. Barnes, whose son was killed in 2001, said that in some neighborhoods there has been a crime emergency for many years.

Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, complained that the crime emergency legislation was “not comprehensive enough.”

“We can’t just look at arrests or lack thereof,” he said. “I’m just disgusted with the whole thing, and if it comes up again … I will vigorously fight it,” he said.

Permanent anti-crime legislation is before the council but it could not be enacted before December at the earliest. The emergency legislation is set to expire Oct. 19.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has said he plans to extend certain provisions of the anti-crime legislation on an emergency basis.

However, city officials are trying to determine whether extending by 90 days anti-crime legislation enacted in July would violate a statute barring passage of the same law more than once on an emergency basis.

If it is found to violate the statute, the 48 surveillance cameras placed in neighborhoods at a cost of $2.3 million would have to be turned off.

In addition, police no longer would have access to criminal juvenile records and would not be able to hold robbery suspects and handgun offenders until the permanent legislation is passed. Also, the 10 p.m. curfew for minors would revert to 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

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