Proposal Would Give D.C. 500 New Cops
Leslie Meek has lived in her Capitol Hill home for about a year now.
During that time, her house has been broken into twice and her car once. Plus, she said she regularly sees people doing a variety of illicit things in the alley behind her home.
Meek has contacted police but said she has been told there simply are not enough officers to go around.
“The officers are dedicated, they work really hard,” Meek said. “What [else] can they do?”
It is a complaint D.C. City Councilman Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said he has heard all too often. In response, Graham and Councilman Adrian Fenty (D-Ward 4) introduced legislation earlier this month to add 500 more officers to the city’s 3,800-member police force, using funds from the expected $52 million in upcoming budget surpluses.
“It’s not that they’re sitting somewhere chewing gum or sitting in their squad cars,” Graham said of D.C.’s police force. “They are doing something else. They just aren’t there.”
The bill comes at a time when police are upping patrols in the wake of a recent surge in robberies. There were 408 robberies in the District in September, up 43 percent from 284 in June, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey said during an Oct. 15 press conference.
Ramsey also announced an increase in reward amounts for robberies and homicides. Ramsey had resisted a previous council plan to add 1,600 more officers to the force, but he has said he would support a modest increase in staffing, according to The Washington Post.
“He has most definitely been saying police are just needed,” Graham said.
At a community meeting Thursday of police service area 102, which includes part of Capitol Hill, Inspector Andy Solberg said officers in the 1st district were focusing on patrolling PSA 106, where many of the robberies have taken place. And while police believe they have some leads on the robberies there, Solberg said, residents should be cautious when walking alone, especially at night.
“A lot of times we are there, but we don’t get there in time,” he said.
Overall, crime in the District is down compared to last year. But Graham said many residents simply do not feel safe walking down the street, and the city has an obligation to correct that.
“You can give people all the numbers — robberies are down, homicides are down — but if they’ve been robbed, robberies are up,” Graham said.
Graham said there has been a lot of support for the proposal.
“I definitely think you’re going to see additional police this year, funded,” Graham said. “There’s so much building pressure. … I know it’s my highest priority.”
Graham’s goal is to evenly distribute the new officers in residential areas throughout the city, which would likely to amount to 10 per PSA, he said.
These officers would be permanently assigned to police the areas in the city where people live and work, “not for the White House,” Graham said.
“There’s just simply not enough officers to begin with,” Graham said. “We just need additional officers. Not generally in the city, specifically in the neighborhoods … they would end up in every neighborhood in the city,” Graham said.
That is good news for Meek, who said additional police presence is needed to help make her neighborhood’s streets feel safer.
“This makes me extremely happy, and I wonder if it’s extremely overdue,” she said.