Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Capitol Police May Expand Jurisdiction

In the past, whenever crime and violence have come closer to the Capitol, the Congress has acted to expand the patrol area and jurisdiction of the Capitol Police. With a marginal increase in violent crime in DC, and the relatively recent return of violent crime to the National Mall, Roll Call (subscription required) suggests a temporary expansion of the Capitol Police's jurisdiction to the Mall:

Patrol the Mall
July 19, 2006

The National Mall is Congress’ majestic front yard. But hoodlums are invading it, and it’s Congress’ responsibility to make it safe. In the short term, that will involve deploying Capitol Police officers to help the U.S. Park Police. In the longer term, it means increasing the Park Police’s budget.

Last Tuesday, six tourists were robbed at gunpoint by two masked assailants near the Washington Monument, and one victim was roughly groped. In May, six people were held up in three different attacks, and a teenage girl was raped near the Smithsonian Metro stop.

No one has been arrested for any of these attacks, so it’s fair to assume that the perpetrators and other local thugs continue to think of the Mall as an opportunity zone. They’ll be back unless they’re caught and/or deterred by vigorous patrolling, better lighting and more surveillance cameras.

Despite this need, the instant reaction of the Capitol Police was: No can do. After attending a meeting at which Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey asked for help in coping with the District’s apparent crime wave, acting Assistant Capitol Police Chief Larry Thompson said, “I’m not feeling that the deployment of additional personnel into areas outside the Capitol grounds is something we will be able to do.”

But Thompson’s old boss, former Capitol Police Chief (and former MPD Deputy Chief) Terrance Gainer, had it right when he told Roll Call that the Capitol Police Department “needs to step up to the plate” and “temporarily help the Park Police” by patrolling parts of the Mall, perhaps down to Seventh Street Northwest. He also suggested that the Capitol Police help out the MPD on Capitol Hill, part of the high-crime 1st district.

...Congressional leaders need to give the Capitol Police a go-ahead to assist during the current crime emergency. But Congress also needs to boost the budget of the Park Police, which was $90 million in fiscal 2002, but just $80.2 million in fiscal 2006. Former Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers, it’s worth remembering, got fired for protesting the cuts. In the meantime, Congress has substantially hiked the budget for the Capitol Police.

...Congress surely will act if someone (perhaps a major campaign donor?) is killed on the Mall, or if a Member gets mugged. But it would be better to do the right thing now.

If the crime problem grows worse, this expansion of jurisdiction will probably happen, because it is the quickest and simples answer.

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1 comment:

Joe said...

DC needs Bratton.