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Let's Choose DC posts candidate answers on crime

This week, Let's Choose DCa partnership of Greater Greater Washington, DCist, and PoPville—asked candidates for the April 23 at-large special election about crime.

Photo by fengschwing on Flickr.

We asked the candidates:

Chief Lanier and Mayor Gray have made a lot of the drop in homicides, but other crimes—assaults, robberies—remain stubbornly high. How should DC police deal with those challenges, and do you have an opinion on how many officers MPD needs?
Read and vote on candidate responses here. Let's Choose DC gives you one candidate response at a time, selected randomly. Your vote will count toward the results once you vote on 5 responses.

We posed the question on January 8 to all of the candidates who had taken out petitions by that point. Nine candidates replied: Diallo Brooks, AJ Cooper, Matt Frumin, Jon Gann, Patrick Mara, Pedro Rubio, John Settles, Elissa Silverman, and Paul Zukerberg.

Voting on the first question, about candidates' vision for the future, has ended; we will tally the results and post them later this week.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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This is superduperkewl!!!!!

When will we see the results from the first one?

BTW, you could've thrown Wonder Woman or at least Emma Stone in the pic..:)

by HogWash on Jan 15, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

HogWash: Results will be later this week.

by David Alpert on Jan 15, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

I out right ignore anyone whose answer involves hiring more police. They clearly have no idea what they are talking about and know even less about the District.

by DCr on Jan 15, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

@DCR, that's a bit much.

The current Chief of Police believes we need more cops which I believe makes it quite impossible to conclude that she knows nothing about the District. It's fine if you disagree w/the policy...but wrongheaded to suggest that anyone who does not know nothing about DC.

Thanks DAl...

by HogWash on Jan 15, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport


She asks for more because it is her job to ask for more, it doesn't change the fact that it is uneeded.

MPD has maintained a higher per capita police officer coverage than any other city in the United States, including NYC, SF, LA, Chicago etc,
40% more per capita than the next highest.

MPD doesn’t even have to police the metro (although they should) we have a crack team (sarcasam abounds!) of 526 armed metro police officers who have mastered never being anywhere in the system at any time of the day…I digress.

I’ve thought for years that DC had way more officers than they needed. How do you justify their current numbers in comparison to larger, more crime ridden places?

And enough with this excuse of "the federal presence" somehow justifies additional officers. MPD has a division of 40 full time officers whose entire job is to escort motorcades, 1% of the entire DC police force.

Federal government provides for the protection of its infrastructure and people.
You have the capitol hill police, 1800 police officers in charge of patrolling 200 blocks of capitol hill.

The Federal Protective Service, a policing arm of Homeland Security who again patrols enormous swaths of the District, with its 200 armed-to-the-teeth- officers in DC, entirely responsible for federal buildings and personnel.

You have 200 US Park Police who have concurrent jurisdiction all over the metro area and are responsible for everything on the US Mall (again downtown), BW and GW, RCP parkways etc.

The DC Housing Authority has its own 70 officers whose sole job is to patrol the areas around DC Public housing.

The DC Public Libray System has 22 officers who have a responsibility to patrol the city libraries.

I haven't even mentioned the presence of the Secret Service.

I mean really now…MPD doesn’t have responsibility for 1/3rd of the business district downtown, none of the parkland and a few of its roads.

They don’t have responsibility for any federal assets or infrastructure, none of the DC public housing, libraries or the 2nd largest transportation system in the US. All they have to focus on are the residential areas, and the part of the business district, and they do this already while mainting 40% more cops per capita than places like NYC, LA, Boston etc.

If MPD can't do their job in DC, where major crime is falling like a stone, with the full bench of existing officers, then perhaps the officers they have are substandard?

by DCr on Jan 15, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport


as info, NYC has a transit police force, and a housing authority police force, IIUC. FPS may be more out there than private security guards at NYC office buildings, but they don't protect federal employees when they depart federal property. The only real difference in the other forces is the park police.

Right now DC has a high crime rate. Murder rate is dropping, but other violent crimes are kind of stuck, and population is growing (which may be improving neighborhoods, but is also increasing the number of potential victims). Making more areas of DC safe would add to property values in those areas, and would provide new housing options and relieve some of the housing cost crisis.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 15, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

She asks for more because it is her job to ask for more, it doesn't change the fact that it is uneeded.

Whether you think she wants more officers because "she's the boss" is rather secondary to your assertion that anyone who believes as she does..doesn't know the city and your decision to turn a deaf ear to any such discussions.

If MPD can't do their job in DC, where major crime is falling like a stone, with the full bench of existing officers, then perhaps the officers they have are substandard?

Perhaps. And I imagine the Chief is the best person to make that value judgment. But since she has headed the force during the recent years drop in the murder rate and has the support of the overwhelming majority of DC residents, I'll rather defer to her judgment.

by HogWash on Jan 15, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

BTW, what's up with Anita Bonds and her lack of responsiveness?

by HogWash on Jan 15, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport


Yes, I realize NYC has transit police etc. The police calculation doesn't include them.

DC has more police officers per resident than any other city in the country. By far. 65.6 officers per 10,000 residents. That’s 40 PERCENT more than the city with the next-highest percentage.

Newark, NJ, has 46.7, Baltimore 46.3, Chicago 44.2, Philadelphia 43.2, New York 41.8, New Orleans 40.8, and St. Louis has 38.4 officers per 10,000 residents. DC has more cops than Dallas, which has more than double DC’s population

DC's murder rate is ~60% lower than it was 15 years ago and we still have the same number of police. NYC's murder rate is 25% lower than ours and we have almost 40% more cops than they do.

The difference is, when in NYC, I always see cops walking around the streets. The last time I saw a cop on the beat was when I saw 3 onduty cops protecting the inside of the Cleveland Park frozen yogurt place.

Yes, DC has more street crime, thefts, marginally so than it did a decade ago, but you have your entire major crimes division twidling their thumbs waiting for someone to get shot, maybe they can be retasked.

So in summary, we have drastically less geography to patrol, our police are responsible for a relatively small part of that geogrpahy, and we have ~40% more duty officers than every larger metro in the US.

Numbers ain't our problem. Its the fact they never walk a beat or get out of their cars. They aren't visible.

by DCr on Jan 15, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

DCr, I've been meaning to blog something similar. I've been writing similar stuff on the TakomaDC listserv. Yes, violent crimes have increased over the past year(although the rate is lower compared to the other peaks, the 1980s and 1990s, etc.). It could be (and I think it is) a kind of recession related aberration, not unlike previous aberrations I can think of over the past 25 years, as crime waxes and wanes.

Part of the problem has to do with a greater use of guns--I think not so much to use, except in extreme cases--guns even if unloaded or fake are likely to increase the likelihood of the victim folding. Guns might get used when the victim doesn't fold. Or somehow things get out of hand. Which is what I suspect happened with that poor guy by Lincoln Park around Christmas time.

So people's perceptions are that crime is "much" "worse" when really it is more likely about the etiology of crime right now.

Likely a change in how personnel are utilized could make a difference. Although I think that the department is in fact doing a lot of stuff focused on crime reduction in focused ways.

Still, it's incredible the large number of police DC has. While e.g., Boston is smaller in size but with the same amount of population, we have almost 2x the number of police.

And yes, the per capita numbers don't include the various federal and other forces that do a bit of policing within the city.

I just don't see how the force gets it both ways--nationally lauded for how great they are (e.g., the July 2012 cover story of Governing Magazine was on Cathy Lanier) and yet they desperately need more officers.

Residents most always are going to clamor for more cops. Whether or not they are justified is something that reasonable people (which never includes Harry Jaffe) need to look at very carefully.

by Richard Layman on Jan 15, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Community. Policing. It would be nice to recognize some of my local cops.

by Alan B. on Jan 15, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

p.s. under William Bratton the transit police in NYC were merged into the NYPD. So I expect that these police are not counted separately.

by Richard Layman on Jan 15, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

Alan B. -- actually with all the various things going on, and when you divvy them up over 168 hours/week, it's tough to see cops regularly. ESPECIALLY if you aren't living in problematic areas.

by Richard Layman on Jan 15, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't say I'm living in a problematic area, but Ward 1 isn't exactly crime free. The only DC police officer I've ever talked to was one that I know socially (friend of a friend) and I never see them just hanging around public areas. Obviously efficiency and responsiveness are important, but part of the issue of crime is perception and right now a lot of people (i)don't see(/i) cops and don't (i)feel(/i) safe. Only seeing them right after a crime happens makes it seem like they are sitting on their asses even if that's not true.

by Alan B. on Jan 15, 2013 8:40 pm • linkreport

Anita Bonds hasn't answered either of the questions so far. Not even considering voting for her.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 15, 2013 11:19 pm • linkreport

What an excellent addition to the political forum for the District. Great use of technology to improve the process and inform interested voters!

by Matthew on Jan 16, 2013 7:40 am • linkreport

I tend to agree with Ward 1 Guy. I can understand some of the candidates weren't even in the race when the initial question was posed, but I would think any At-Large candidate, who intends to server ALL DC residents would have interest in responding to these basic questions and would want the exposure and ability to compare/contrast with their peers.

That a candidate (or in this case, candidates) would choose to simply ignore this opportunity is telling. I wish David and Martin would include a "No Reponse" page for each of the other declared candidates.

by Andrew on Jan 16, 2013 7:43 am • linkreport

Random police patrols please residents, but are not effective at preventing crime. Disorderly conduct, yes, and foot patrols can significantly enhance the ambience of our neighborhood commercial strips. But do patrols, whether on foot or in cars, prevent crime? No.

Closing crimes, especially robberies, by arrest, would be effective. The MPD has had a substandard rate of clearing robberies by arrest for years. The current rate is 20%, which isn't enough to deter robbers. But talking about how to get this rate up doesn't win praise from the people, who just want to see more uniforms patrolling their streets.

by Jack on Jan 16, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

That a candidate (or in this case, candidates) would choose to simply ignore this opportunity is telling. I wish David and Martin would include a "No Reponse" page for each of the other declared candidates.

I don't particularly care that Bonds didn't respond specifically to the "GGW Community." My issue is that she chose not respond to a Q&A that her other contenders are clearly participating in. It's unattractive and completely dismissive.

I absolutely agree that DAL should include an end line stating that "candidate A et. al did not respond to this week's question." It's already there...might as well make it as clear as possible since these are the people interested in running the city.

Ms. Bonds, if you and your people are listening, you have fallen off my list of consideration.

by HogWash on Jan 16, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

@Hogwash - Agree, it isn't that Bonds didn't respond as a sole act, but the fact that many of the others are participating. They see the value in a common exchange of ideas to help inform the electorate.

Clearly Bonds and some others, don't.

by Andrew on Jan 16, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

Ahh, now that I can see the results from the first round of public input on the candidates, did AJ Cooper get early access to this information and then decide to drop out? People really did not like his response.

by MLD on Jan 17, 2013 8:25 am • linkreport

John's point to a Mayoral partnership to start up and make better use of crime identification programs is an idea worth taking a look into.

I also took an exceptional liking to the idea to have MPD work closer with ANCs to do more "community policing." As we all know, there are different crime problems in different neighborhood which means specific, preventative measures need to be taken to hone in on crime prevention city wide.

He seems very soltion oriented which is what I think the COuncil needs. Enough of the mundane policies and programs that have been in place for 15+ years, there needs to be someone with new, inoovative, and strategic programs to help the city continue to progress in areas such as crime.

by Juan on Jan 17, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

FWIW, MPD already does this, not so much via ANCs, but with PSAs (Police Service Areas) and PSA community groups, the police district Community Advisory Council, and community organizations.

by Richard Layman on Jan 17, 2013 7:23 pm • linkreport

So, Jack, how do we get the closure rate up? I'm not saying that you're wrong that patrols aren't effective. If you know of more effective options, then tell us what they are!

However, personally, I have, on several occasions, seen something that the police should be responding to (examples include incidents bordering on and escalating towards DV, VERY drunk people who are a danger to themselves, and suspicious behavior like people I don't know hanging around by someone's slightly out-of-sight back window), but didn't have my phone with me, and managed to stumble upon a police officer on patrol pretty quickly and direct them to the issue. No, I've not always found a police officer when I needed one and didn't have my phone, but having them out and about has helped more than once. Plus I feel like there might be a perception with frequent patrols that the police might just roll by at any time. Is the perp going to risk it if they might run right into an officer? Again, if something else has proven more effective, then we should absolutely be doing that. I'm just unaware of any better method of combatting crime, personally.

by Ms. D on Jan 17, 2013 7:57 pm • linkreport

To the earlier discussion, as a resident of a more "dangerous" part of DC (it's really not...we have very little crime in my neighborhood and have an overall lower crime *rate* than many other parts of the city), I can honestly say I recognize many of the officers who patrol my neighborhood, and know several of them by name. Part of that is that I am out and about in the neighborhood more than average. We have a nice yard, and between sitting out there letting my dog run around and walking him, plus walking around to commute and run errands, I just see more faces than some others might. Part of it is also that this is a desirable PSA to work (the officers I know have told me as much), by virtue of its relatively low crime rate, so we tend to have the same officers year after year. But a big part of it is that the patrols ARE visible. I run into the officers on the street and driving by on a regular basis. They're pretty friendly and observant. A few months ago, when we had a minor scuffle I witnessed, I started to give the officers, who I didn't know personally, my address as part of my statement, and they already knew (seriously, they were like "you own the little black dog who chases our car across your yard...we see you all the time, we know your address"). They recognized me even though I didn't recognize them. That's kind of how I envision "community policing." The officers know their beat, know the people on it, and know the problems they need to watch out for. It's working in this part of the city (crime, ALL crime, is WAY down over the last few years), and if it's not working elsewhere then we have INTERNAL lessons that need to be spread.

by Ms. D on Jan 17, 2013 8:41 pm • linkreport

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