Tough Summer: Mayor, Police Chief Ask for Help in Solving Crimes

Mayor Muriel Bowser stepped up to the microphone set up in the middle of the hallway for the fifth floor of the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue Aug. 13 and faced the press after an hour-long public safety and justice cluster meeting. With Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier at her side, Bowser talked about the spike in violent crimes over the last couple of weeks.

On poster boards near Bowser and Lanier stood pictures and information about the latest victims and on-going criminal investigations by the MPD. Some cases were closed; most were not.

Bowser said she was asking for help from the community in solving these crimes. Lanier said homicides were up but the MPD was recovering more guns over the last two years. She said she saw high-capacity magazines for guns as possibly contributing to the summer’s uptick in violent crimes and simply said she could not say for sure what the exact cause of the spike is it.

“Our people in the community are tired of this,” said Lanier, who added that the MPD closure rate on crimes was 20 percent higher than the national average — 77 percent compared to 57 percent. She said she was reviewing deployments, working with the Public Housing Authority and “focused on making the system work.”

Lanier also indicated at least 10 homicides involved repeat offenders. “If there is a failure somewhere we have to identify it and address it,” she said.

Bowser said that there was now a test for synthetic drugs and that any crimes on public transit should result “robust sentences.”

“People need to come forward,” Lanier said of solving crimes. “We can’t do it without public assistance. . . .We need witnesses.”
Police need to “work smarter, not harder,” she said. MPD’s so-called lemonade tent at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Shaw — which has seen an increase in crime during the summer — is cited as a simple but effective way for the police to make their presence known and get to know more people.

Lanier summed up this summer of heightened violence and conflict: “It is dispute resolution with a gun.”

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