D.C. vi­o­lent crime slows af­ter surge early this year

Po­lice hail ef­forts tar­get­ing rob­beries

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

An uptick in vi­o­lent crime in the Dis­trict, fu­eled by an in­crease in rob­beries com­mit­ted at gun­point in the early part of the year, ap­pears to be slow­ing, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary crime data.

March crime sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that over­all vi­o­lent crime, as well as rob­beries, are down this month com­pared with the same time last year af­ter a se­ries of po­lice ac­tions at­tempt­ing to curb a spike in vi­o­lence of 40 per­cent in the first six weeks of 2012. Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern, the num­ber of rob­beries in­volv­ing a gun dur­ing that pe­riod dou­bled what it had been last year.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment sta­tis­tics from March 1 through Mon­day show vi­o­lent crime down 11 per­cent and rob­beries down 16 per­cent. City­wide, rob­beries in­volv­ing a gun are down this month 44 per­cent com­pared

with last year and are un­changed or down ev­ery­where ex­cept in Wards 7 and 8, ar­eas east of the Ana­cos­tia River that his­tor­i­cally have had higher lev­els of vi­o­lent crime.

Po­lice re­ported 294 vi­o­lent crimes, in­clud­ing 44 rob­beries com­mit­ted at gun­point and 119 other rob­beries, so far in March.

“The MPD has been tak­ing steps to take con­trol of the rob­beries,” said D.C. coun­cil mem­ber Phil Men­del­son, at-large Demo­crat.

Po­lice say they have be­gun a se­ries of ini­tia­tives this year tar­get­ing the in­crease in rob­beries, which have drawn wide­spread public out­cry that has re­sulted in com­mu­nity meet­ings and public an­nounce­ments about crime in­ci­dents and ar­rests.

“We are see­ing our ef­forts pay off,” po­lice spokes­woman Gwen­dolyn Crump said, not­ing that the num­ber of ar­rests of rob­bery sus­pects is up.

Of­fi­cers as of Fri­day had made 315 ar­rests in con­nec­tion with rob­beries this year, more than dou­ble the num­ber of such ar­rests made over the same pe­riod in 2011, Ms. Crump said.

Po­lice have re­as­signed 200 of­fi­cers and em­ployed un­der­cover of­fi­cers as de­coys. Of­fi­cials said re­cent raids on 13 es­tab­lish­ments be­lieved to be traf­fick­ing in stolen goods such as smart­phones and other hand­held con­sumer elec­tron­ics also may have played into this month’s crime de­crease.

“At the very least, it sends a very strong mes­sage that if you traf­fic stolen goods, they will find you and shut you down,” said Pe­dro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray. “The re­sources the chief has de­ployed have had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact.”

As a re­sult of the March 12 raids, 16 peo­ple face charges in re­la­tion to the sale of the stolen goods. Po­lice re­cov­ered hun­dreds of stolen items and are work­ing to re­turn them to their own­ers. Of­fi­cials have hinted that ad­di­tional raids may be in the works, but they have de­clined to dis­cuss their ef­forts fur­ther.

The Ur­ban In­sti­tute, a D.c.-based think tank, has sug­gested that this year’s trend is a re­turn to typ­i­cal crime lev­els af­ter an “anoma­lously low vi­o­lent-crime pe­riod” at the be­gin­ning of 2011 rather than a crime surge.

The only vi­o­lent crime cat­e­gory that is down year-to-date is homi­cides, with 16 re­ported in 2012 com­pared with 19 in 2011. Homi­cides con­tinue to de­cline af­ter last year, drop­ping to the low­est level in a half-cen­tury.

While the March num­bers sug­gest a pos­i­tive trend, vi­o­lent crime — homi­cides, sex­ual as­saults, rob­beries and as­saults with dan­ger­ous weapons — re­mains up 24 per­cent for the year com­pared with the same time in 2011.

Over­all, the Dis­trict has recorded 1,403 vi­o­lent crimes this year, in­clud­ing 875 rob­beries, 327 of which were com­mit­ted at gun­point, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary po­lice data.

With vi­o­lent crime num­bers still up this year over last — par­tic­u­larly rob­beries with guns, which through Mon­day re­main up a stag­ger­ing 64 per­cent — oth­ers re­flected that po­lice in the Dis­trict still have ground to cover.

“I don’t think they have a han­dle on it, but they’re get­ting a han­dle on it,” said coun­cil mem­ber Jim Gra­ham, Ward 1 Demo­crat. “This is a huge prob­lem.”

But part of that bat­tle re­mains ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple who live in and visit the Dis­trict to bet­ter pro­tect their prop­erty, Mr. Gra­ham said. Vic­tims of­ten are “not con­scious of the op­por­tu­nity they’re un­wit­tingly giv­ing peo­ple,” he noted.

“New peo­ple with the tech­nol­ogy need to ad­just to an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, where peo­ple are steal­ing things,” Mr. Gra­ham said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mourn­ers touch and kiss the tomb of Pope Shenouda III in Wadi Natroun, north­west of Cairo, on Tues­day. Shenouda III was an iconic fig­ure for 40 years at the helm of Egypt’s Cop­tic Ortho­dox Church. Story, A12.

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