Every summer, the Metropolitan Police Department targets certain service areas that have seen high rates of violent crime, as part of an initiative to prevent homicides and gun-related incidents from occurring over the warmer months.
But 2015 was the first year in which that initiative did not correlate with a drop in homicides, according to Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who testified on Wednesday at a D.C. Council oversight hearing involving MPD. While intervention in police service areas 507, 602, 604, and 702—which cover parts of Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8—did lead to reductions in violent crime in all except the first PSA, it did not “have an impact on homicides” in any of them, the police chief told Judiciary Committee Chair Kenyan McDuffie. In the first four years of the initiative, homicides dropped by more than half in targeted PSAs, Lanier added, largely as a result of “flooding those areas” with police and other government resources.
“The reasons homicides go up and down change, the reasons violence goes up and down change, patterns of robberies change,” Lanier said, noting that homicide arrests were up 40 precent citywide over the previous year. “I can’t tell you how many homicides we prevented, but it was the first year we did not see a drop in homicides” in the monitored PSAs.
The initiative typically mixes community and youth engagement with strategic intelligence, mental-health services, and other events and programs. According to documents MPD submitted to the Council, the summer-crime initiative helped reduce violent crime “by 14 percent in the focus area”—one of the department’s “top three accomplishments” last year.
Still, Lanier today said PSAs 507 and 702 were particularly troublesome over the summer: The former saw “significant” synthetic-drug and PCP issues while the latter experienced a spike in violent crime owing to “retaliation” that sparked a cycle of violence. Those service areas include the Langston/Carver and Woodland Terrace neighborhoods, respectively.
This year, Lanier said MPD will focus on combatting homicides and robberies, which rose roughly 54 and five percent in 2015 citywide over the previous year. These crimes tend to generate the most fear among communities, the chief added. (“That’s where I’ve got all of our operational resources focused,” she said.) Additionally, the oversight documents before the Council indicate that the PSAs targeted in last summer’s initiative plus PSA 705 (which includes Congress Park) will receive additional support services in fiscal year 2016, thanks to $1.25 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and individuals “in several key areas: violence prevention/mediation, mentoring, youth enrichment, and family supports.”
“I think overall you can document how many people in those areas got jobs, took job training, how many didn’t reoffend,” Lanier said of limitations. “There’s nothing that can give you that absolute how many crimes did we prevent.”
MPD currently has 3,772 sworn officers (inclusive of those in the police academy and probationers), per the police chief. The department has almost 200 openings, including 67 officers.