Are We Normalizing Crime?   

As we began to write this editorial, we noticed lots of commentary on the growing persistence of crime, close to home and across the nation.

We noted the tragic loss of Stephon Johns, an employee of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, fatally shot Aug. 11 at the intersection of Florida and Connecticut Avenues NW. The online Georgetowner story on the death of Johns is the most-visited post on our website this week and last. Crime is on everyone’s mind.

The Washington Post jumped in with its Sept. 11 editorial on the perceived crime wave and the need for a crime summit in the District and the region. It mentioned a 25-year-old killed on Aug. 10, while installing solar panels. On Aug. 24, Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School went on lockdown with gunshots heard — result: two men dead; three others injured nearby.

It added, almost out of rote: “Even with some of the country’s toughest gun laws, the District is awash in firearms. Police so far this year have seized 2,249 guns, 815 more than this time last year; they seem to be fighting a losing battle.”

We agree with the Post: “The D.C. Council… must do its own soul-searching. The council has enacted measures — such as halting police hiring and abolishing school resource officers — and employed rhetoric that made police feel like they were the enemy, making law enforcement’s job harder and the city less safe. The council cannot, as it has so often done, brush aside the concerns that police and prosecutors express about these changes. No one should want a return to the bad old days of draconian sentences and mass incarceration. But, in the interest of correcting past mistakes, the District must not swing too far in the other direction, creating a culture in which people engage in wrongdoing because they think there are few consequences.”

Post columnist Colby King wrote in a Sept. 9 column of the need for curfews for children under 16 years of age. Some object, saying crimes happen after school lets out. King countered: “Regardless of whether it happened at 4 o’clock in the afternoon or 12 hours later, Isreal Akingbesote lost his life, allegedly at the hands of children.” (Akingbesote was running a gas station in Clinton and stabbed many times.) “That is where the focus belongs. It’s the heart of the problem.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee has said: “If you see a 13- or 14-year-old out at 2 o’clock in the morning, something is wrong with that picture.” And who knew that there is technically a curfew for D.C. children already on the books?

Yes, all of this is complicated. There are age-old problems loose in the land. Still, we must be safe, laws must be enforced — and the people and our leaders must be in agreement on how to proceed. We and our children deserve nothing less. It is a matter of domestic tranquility, respect and justice.  





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