The homicide rate in the District may soon exceed last year’s rate of 160, and there appears to be nothing the mayor, law enforcement, community organizations, or the clergy can do to stop residents from falling victim. The nearly daily incidents of reported homicides numbered at 157 at press time, are indiscriminate when it comes to the victims that include young children to older adults, mostly males as well as females, and primarily Black, but not excluding whites and other ethnic groups.
D.C. is known to have the most stringent gun laws in the U.S., but the penalties have not proven to deter gun-related violence. The mayor and the city council have poured millions of dollars into social programs, but it is not enough to reach the perpetrators of the mayhem. Millions of more dollars are being directed to law enforcement, providing for increased hiring, higher retention, expanded training and affordable housing for more police officers. Still, it’s not enough to impact the steadily rising number of murders across the District.
What District residents are experiencing today is a far cry from the 1980s when D.C. was known as the murder capital of the U.S. But even then, crack cocaine was the known culprit that fueled the murder rate that peaked to 482 in 1991. Today, the cause appears to be more random, but most certainly, the victims and the perpetrators are often not strangers.
Credit must be given to Mayor Bowser for not giving up, and for not stopping short of coming up with one more thing that might make a difference. And, sadly, residents are desperate for new measures, regardless of the infringement it may have on their personal freedom. Just last week, Mayor Bowser announced a $5 million investment to expand the MPD Crime Camera Network. Soon 140 cameras will be put on the streets, adding to the 199 cameras currently deployed across the District by MPD, with particular attention to areas in Wards 1, 5, 7 and 8.
We concur that cameras can be useful in crime-solving, but we strongly disagree that they are an effective crime deterrent. As the mayor’s announcement notes, “whenever a crime occurs, one of the first actions … is to canvass the area for any security cameras.” Violent crimes are not only occurring but increasing along with the costly and growing number of police cameras. Innocent residents are losing their freedom from unnecessary police surveillance and losing their lives to bold and shameless criminals.