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A Hill East resident says she will sue the Department of Justice after it denied a public-records request she filed last year for data on criminal prosecutions in the District.
Denise Rucker Krepp, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for ANC6B, held a Freedom of Information Act bake sale in December. She now says she intends to file a civil complaint against DOJ on behalf of the 2,000 people she represents in her Single Member District. Krepp alleges that the department has the type of information she asked for in November (ward-based data on prosecutions for alleged homicides, robberies, and other crimes over the previous five years) but did not share it. She’s retained a lawyer from a local law firm (she declined to say who or which).
“It is unconscionable for DOJ to be refusing to share it,” Krepp says. “I have standing because I’m the one having all the correspondence with DOJ; they’re not going to knock me off for germaneness either. I expect that this will be a very long process, but what I’m demanding is a fundamental change and accountability.”
City Desk has reached out to DOJ for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
In its first letter denying Krepp’s FOIA request, the department noted: “A search for records located in the United States Attorney’s Office(s) for the District of Columbia has revealed no responsive records regarding the above subject. The USAO does not track this information and has no means of searching for or retrieving.” That was in January. Krepp says she thereafter appealed DOJ’s decision and came up empty earlier this month.
As for her evidence that DOJ actually has the data she’s seeking, the ANC commissioner says it’s clear that it exists based on public comments by officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. This includes statements on the number of cases by crime type in the judicial system (such as when officials announced a “robbery task force” earlier this year) and monthly reports DOJ puts out. “If you can talk about it case-by-case, then you can come up with the data,” she says.
Even though overall crime went down between 2014 and 2015 (homicides and robberies being the notable exceptions) and violent crime has plummeted over the past two decades, Krepp says she feels crimes remain prevalent. In her ANC, Krepp adds, residents have recently been victim to carjackings and assaults.
“How can you ask for money every year if you can’t show metrics?” Krepp says. “Those metrics are what drive budgets. So I’m troubled by this, and I resent the fact that I have to [use] FOIA for this information.”
“It’s not just me asking the question.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery