- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday that tactics to stop a violent-crime spree are working and that days off for officers are gradually being restored.

“We don’t want to take a breath just yet, but we’re very pleased with the progress,” he said.

Chief Ramsey said he will restore one day off every other week to officers who have been working six-day weeks since he declared a crime emergency July 11.

The crime spree included a series of robberies and attacks this past spring on visitors to the Mall and 13 homicides in the first 11 days of July, including a July 9 slaying-robbery in Georgetown in which British political activist Alan Senitt, 27, had his throat slashed while trying to prevent the robbery and rape of a female companion.

There have been 25 killings since then, compared with 39 during the same period last year.

The number of robberies during the crime emergency also declined. Since July 11, there have been 581, compared with 698 during the same period in 2005.

“Last year was the lowest level of crime since 1969,” Chief Ramsey said. “We’re going against some incredibly low numbers and yet we’re having this kind of impact.”

Still, the crime emergency effort has not been entirely successful.

The 11 percent decrease in overall violent crime is far short of Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ stated goal of a 50 percent reduction.

Chief Ramsey could not say when he plans to lift the crime emergency, but that this month will be crucial in determining whether the downward crime trend holds because September often brings as much crime as the summer months.

“There’s going to come a time when we’re going to have to call it off,” Chief Ramsey said. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve solved all of our problems. It just means we’ve gone about as far as we can go. I’m looking at September, and I think we’ll take it week to week and monitor it very carefully.”

In July, the D.C. Council passed a package of emergency anti-crime legislation proposed by Mr. Williams, a Democrat not seeking re-election. The legislation authorized the use of neighborhood surveillance cameras and gave the mayor authority to institute an earlier juvenile curfew.

Mr. Williams also directed $8 million to be spent on police overtime.

“We’ve just about exhausted that,” Chief Ramsey said. “One of the things I’m going to be doing is going back to the mayor with a plan, a plan to extend this, that may require some additional funding.”

He did not say how much more money the department might need, but noted that the new fiscal year begins in October so the department will have additional money to spend.

Chief Ramsey also said the department deployed two dozen neighborhood cameras in phases during August. Two dozen more will be deployed this month. The emergency legislation authorizing the cameras expires Oct. 19, but the council is expected to consider permanent legislation before then.

The police chief said the cameras that have been deployed so far have yet to show tangible results.

“I think it’s too early yet to tell, but as we start getting more and more out [in high crime areas], I think it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

“We put them in hot spots and areas where we will need them so it’s just a matter of time before they pick up something usable in court.”

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