Crime Emergency And Political Correctness
Since the information from this article appeared this morning in the July 12, 2006 edition of the Washington Post, six more people have been attacked and robbed on the National Mall:
"D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey reacted yesterday to a recent surge in homicides by declaring a 'crime emergency,' a move that gives him the freedom to quickly adjust officers' schedules and restrict their days off....The following provides some specific information as to why Chief Ramsey has declared ths emergency:
"The declaration gives him the power to quickly shift the department's 3,800 officers to areas and times they are needed most. He can change schedules without giving officers 14 days' notice, as required under the union contract. Ramsey said he will increase patrols in hard-hit neighborhoods and put nonuniformed officers on the streets to help provide the increased coverage."
"Thirteen people [Since the publication of this article, that number has risen to fourteen, and July is not yet half over] have been killed since July 1 in the District, and police are being pressured to take action by residents at community meetings and vigils to honor the dead. The victims included a popular store owner slain at closing time, a community activist killed in a park and a British citizen whose throat was slit in Georgetown....Adding to the trouble is a police officer's statement at a community gathering in Georgetown, a predominantly white neighborhood and the cushiest part of D.C.:
"Ten men, two women and a 16-year-old youth have been killed in the city since July 1. The most recent killing occurred at 1:25 a.m. yesterday in the 3600 block of 22nd Street SE, where Laquanda Johnson, 24, was found fatally shot. A suspect was arrested about 12 hours later in Suitland.
"Despite the recent uptick in violence, the number of people killed this year is the same as at this point in 2005: 94. But the number of robberies is up 14 percent, and Ramsey and other commanders are concerned that more holdups will turn deadly.
"'Robbery is a very dangerous crime,' Ramsey said. 'You are literally one movement away from it being a homicide.'
"Police have linked robbery and homicide in the slaying early Sunday of Alan Senitt, 27, a British citizen who was caught by surprise while walking a friend home along a tree-lined street in Georgetown. Senitt's throat was slashed and his friend was nearly raped, police said. Four suspects are in custody -- including a woman who allegedly drove the getaway car and a 15-year-old who authorities want to prosecute as an adult. Senitt had been working in Washington with a political action committee set up for former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner (D).
"Two of the suspects in Senitt's killing -- Christopher Piper, 25, and Jeffrey Rice, 22 -- had criminal records. Piper was paroled this year after a prison term for armed robbery and a drug charge. Rice was released in May after serving time for a drug offense and probation violation. Authorities said the two are suspects in at least two robberies that took place in Georgetown in the weeks before Senitt's attack...."
"The declaration [of the crime emergency] came on the same day that Ramsey transferred a police official who was accused of making a racially insensitive remark at a community meeting Monday night in Georgetown. Ramsey temporarily reassigned Inspector Andy Solberg, who urged residents to report suspicious activity....The weekend murders of two rather high-profile individuals led to the declaration of a crime emergency: Alan Senitt, who was white, and Chris Crowder, who was black. Alan Senitt's killing was the more recent, by a day or two; as mentioned above in the citation from the Washington Post, his throat was slit and his girlfriend sexually assaulted during a robbery in Georgetown. Chris Crowder was shot several times as he sat in his wheelchair near the Washington Convention Center; again, robbery appears to have been the motive. Arrests have been made in the case of Alan Senitt's killing, Crowder's murderers have not been apprehended.
"About 400 people crowded into a church in Georgetown on Monday night to discuss the Senitt killing. Solberg, the commander of the 2nd Police District, was addressing that forum when he made his remarks about race. Senitt was white, and the suspects in the case are black.
"When he made the comment, Solberg was telling the crowd to report suspicious-looking people to police when they see them in the neighborhood. He talked about the suspects in the Senitt killing and described one as a 'chubby, stocky guy' and one as a 15-year-old. He said at 2 a.m. they 'are going to stand out' in the area.
"'They were black,' Solberg said. 'This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown. This is a fact of life.'
"...In an interview after the meeting, he told WJLA-TV (Channel 7), 'What should be suspicious is three guys standing out on a street corner at 2 o'clock in the morning.'
"Ramsey said yesterday that Solberg is 'a good man, not a racist or anything like that.' Ramsey said...He reassigned Solberg to the police department's security services section pending the outcome of the investigation.
"Bill Starrells, a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission from Georgetown who was at the meeting, said he 'winced' when he heard the comment. 'Obviously it was out of place,' Starrells said. 'It was out of character for him. It was an unfortunate comment.'
"He said Solberg has done 'great work' in the 2nd Police District. Solberg, a 19-year veteran, took charge of the district in April.
"Other community activists in Georgetown and downtown said they were surprised that Solberg had been reassigned for the statement. Lowaunz Tascoe, a black shop owner who has lived in Georgetown for almost 40 years, said Solberg had merely stated the truth.
"'How come people don't know that? These people live in a box?' Tascoe said. 'It is highly, highly unusual to see three young black males roaming around up there in the residential neighborhoods.'
"Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Leroy Thorpe said he suspects that Ramsey transferred Solberg to 'play it safe politically' and ease racial tensions over radically different outcomes in two high-profile weekend killings."
Perhaps Inspector Solberg's words were problematic, particularly in a public meeting. But is now the time to be pursuing political correctness?
When the police and the locals hear about murders in particular areas of the District of Columbia, shoulders are shrugged. "Well, that's Southeast" or "Well, that's Northeast" are the comments made. But when violent crime comes to Northwest, the section of town which includes the National Mall and Georgetown, a crime emergency is declared. Coincidence?
Addendum from Courtland Milloy's column today:
"A new crime trend is unfolding in the District -- and some suburbs, too: an increase in armed robberies committed by thugs whose motivation appears to be less about getting money than inflicting pain. For even if you comply with demands to hand over your belongings, you are still likely to be assaulted, raped, kidnapped or killed. Much of this crime is being committed by adolescents.Apparently, it is acceptable for Chief Ramsey to refer to "young black males" as criminals.
"'So far this year, we've had a 95 percent increase in juveniles arrested for robberies, and it's not uncommon to have physical assaults in the process,' D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey told me. 'Young black males, in groups of five to six, ages 13 to 15, are displaying handguns and beating their victims.'
"Accompanying the increase in juvenile arrests for armed robbery has been an increase in juveniles arrested for carrying handguns -- a combination that Ramsey finds particularly disturbing. 'We're dealing with adolescents who have no remorse, no regrets,' he said. And they are well armed...."