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District to probe crime stats

January 8, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A D.C. lawmaker wants to probe crime statistics, and he wants “snitches” to spill the beans.

This plea isn’t the result of some particularly gruesome crime, like last week’s drive-by shooting in Houston that killed a 7-year-old girl or a suspected road rage incident along Interstate 295 in which a female passenger who was shot Monday morning.

The D.C. crime-stat probe was prompted by a WTTG-TV Fox 5 news report in December that accused the Metropolitan Police Department of fudging its numbers.

On its website Fox 5 says: ”[D.C.] Councilmember Charles Allen of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will examine how DC police classify crimes shortly after the New Year.

“In the meantime, Allen is asking anyone on the police force or in the community to contact the committee with concerns or insights around specific instances of crimes being incorrectly classified.

“Although police said violent crimes like robberies and shootings appear to be on the decline, a whistleblower who talked to FOX 5′s Marina Marraco said that DC police brass has been tampering with the numbers.”

Decreases in robberies and shootings would be very welcome news, but only if true.

False positives are never good signs. After all, crime data and political rhetoric (such as this is a “safe neighborhood”) can easily lull people into “feeling safe” without knowing the facts.

To wit: Law enforcers whether local, state or federal usually willingly give the media year-end roundups. Those numbers give the public, for example, a snapshot of year-to-year violence. Those efforts, of course, should be lauded and not overshadowed by internal shenanigans.

For sure, the District didn’t end the year on a good note when it came to homicides. A tell-tale sign was when The Washington Times reported on Dec. 10 that there had been 154 homicides so far in the District, compared to 108 homicides for all of 2017.

2019 didn’t begin on a good note, either. There was a fatal shooting on New’s Day, and by Monday, Jan. 7, the city had recorded five deaths, including two people who were found dead in a house fire in Southeast. Those two deaths were ruled homicides.

In the case of the fire, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said: “A lot of that case is going to require some pretty significant forensic work so that may take us a bit but we have made pretty good progress.”

Mr. Allen and his legislative colleagues must be deliberately probative with Chief Newsham and Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue, seeking the to find out not only what the chief and the mayor are doing to prevent crime. They also should seek data on fatal and non-fatal stabbings over a five- to 10-year period to see whether there is a trend. They should ask the same for shootings, fatal and nonfatal, to see if there is a trend.

Also, what kinds of guns are being used? Again, are there any trends? Were some of the guns used in multiple crimes?

Probing and raising questions of law enforcement is not an indictment of the men and women who run toward violence when the public runs in the opposite direction.

The thing is, if someone knows for a fact that the police department is misleading the public about crime stats, then that someone must be flushed out. On the other hand, probing into territory where the council usually doesn’t venture speaks volumes, too.

In short, seek and ye shall find.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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