D.C. mayor searching for answers to recent spike in violence

D.C. mayor searching for answers to recent spike in violence
Spires (left) and Sutherland

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser convened her Public Safety Team Thursday to discuss recent violent episodes in the nation’s capital and brainstorm ideas to tackle the rising murder count.

So far this year, 91 people have been murdered in the city, a nearly 30% rise over the same time last year.

“We have seen an unacceptable spike in homicides this year,” Bowser told reporters.

Bowser and her Public Safety Team, which includes representatives of the city’s police department and other agencies, came up with several ideas they hope will help quell the ballooning number of murders committed in the city.

Those ideas include developing new deployment strategies, setting up new lighting and cameras in troublesome neighborhoods, and the mayor said she is even considering “legislative changes” to the city’s gun laws, which are already some of the strictest in the nation.

Bowser kept tight-lipped about the new gun regulations she and her team discussed. She said they were “still chewing on them” and it would be premature to discuss the regulations at this point.

She did, however, divulge that she plans to make sure penalties for crimes committed on public transit are more “robust” than they have been in the past.

The move comes after the much-publicized and brutal Independence Day stabbing death of a man on a crowded city train headed down town to watch fireworks. The victim, Kevin Sutherland, was headed for downtown D.C. when Jasper Spires attempted to steal his cellphone. The two struggled before Spires punched Sutherland several times in the face and stabbed him nearly 40 times before ultimately darting off the train and into the holiday crowds.

Spires was found by police the following day after a city-wide manhunt.

Neither Bowser nor the city’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, has been able to come up with a definitive cause for the surge in violence, though Lanier said there has been a “huge influx of guns” and high-capacity magazines into the city as of late, and that could be a contributing factor.

“Every city is seeing a flood of these high-capacity magazines,” Lanier said.

Lanier also said that ten people involved in the recent spate of murders in the city had prior homicide charges on their records. She was unsure how many of those charges were for juveniles.

While the number of murders committed in the city continues to climb, police are having a harder time keeping up with the extra caseload.

Detectives have closed less then 40% of murder cases so far this year, representing a steep decline from previous years when in 2011 they were able to close more than 95% and in 2012, the last year with accessible data, police closed almost 82% of cases.

Lanier said the real number of cases closed by police is around 55%, because the system used to report case closures isn’t a real-time record. She added detectives are very close to closing several other cases, which would bring the total up, and the closure rates include cold cases solved in that year, as well. D.C. police closed 18 cold cases in 2011, which helped pad the stats for that year, Lanier said.

“These things don’t happen over night,” Lanier said, citing numerous procedures involved with closing a case, like building a case against a suspect and analyzing firearm data.

This report, by Josh Fatzick, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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