Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
The following statement was presented to the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on the Judiciary, The Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair on September 29, 2006, at the Council Chamber, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, staff and guests. I appreciate this opportunity to update you on the status and results of the District’s crime emergency. It has been about two-and-a-half months since I officially declared a “crime emergency,” in order to confront a sharp escalation in crime and violence in our city. And it has been just over two months since the Council passed, and the Mayor signed, emergency legislation to support our anti-crime efforts. With that emergency legislation set to expire in the next few weeks, now is certainly a good time to step back and evaluate the impact of our efforts to-date, and to consider what we – as a government and as a community – need to do in order to achieve our common goal of a safer city for all.
Today’s hearing, of course, follows a week of violence involving young people in the District, including the murders of three teenagers. These homicides are tragic, and the circumstances surrounding them are deeply troubling. However, I believe that it would be wrong to try and use these three tragic deaths as some type of a “referendum” on the crime emergency as a whole. As I have said on many occasions, the problem of youth violence goes a lot deeper than police deployment, curfews, technology and the like. It goes to the complex and far-reaching issues of parenting and schooling, poverty and economic opportunity, individual responsibility and community support.
As we look at the efforts of the Metropolitan Police Department and other entities during the current crime emergency, we must all keep in mind that this is not an “either-or” proposition: either focus on our immediate law enforcement needs as reflected in elements of the crime emergency, or focus on the long-term, underlying issues that contribute to crime in the first place. We need to do both things – and we need to do them simultaneously and we need to do them well. Addressing the underlying issues is complex and difficult work, and it will take considerable time and resources. In the meantime, we need to continue focusing on what are admittedly short-term responses to a very complicated problem.
As I will outline in my testimony, our efforts during the current crime emergency have produced tangible and very promising safety benefits for our communities. I firmly believe we need to continue these initiatives, in order to give our longer-range efforts a chance to develop and take root.