WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - It was a rocky end to 2018 and has been a violent beginning to 2019 in Washington, D.C. The two city leaders at the forefront of the fight to control crime, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, joined FOX 5 Wednesday.
Their focus on combating D.C.'s high crime numbers begins with focusing and driving down the incidents that lead to acts of violence and homicides, both leaders said. Eliminating illegal firearms in the District, increasing the size of the police department over the next four years and getting federal law enforcement partners more involved in the city's fight against crime are top priorities.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE to hear the full interview.
"There's a disconnect between our local law enforcement and our federal law enforcement," Bowser told us. She said she has asked Newsham to inform prosecutors that D.C. detectives make good progress in cases and want those cases prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"We need more attention on repeat offenders, especially offenders that use guns -- that's for sure," Bowser said. She said the issues of crime and violence are total community issues and need to be attacked from all angles. She also added that the D.C. Police Department is hiring and
"Sadly, when I first came into office in 2015, you'll remember, we had a spike too and we threw everything at it," Bowser said. "From any legislative change that we needed, from programs that would get people in jobs, from better coordination with our federal partners - and we saw the numbers go down. And we'll see them go down again."
"Peter Newsham has been working and has grown up in our department," Bowser said. "He knows all of our neighborhoods better than - better than anybody that I know when it comes to crime. And he knows how to deploy our forces and to be smart about it."
"A lot of times we focus on the homicide numbers alone," Newsham said. "If you look back over the past several years, we have actually made significant progress in reducing violent crime in this city. The one thing that has remained a little bit persistent is the shootings. The lethality of the shootings last year actually increased quite significantly so more people died as a result of the shootings. I think we need to roll up our sleeves and focus specifically on the shootings in the communities where those shootings are happening."
"We've been taking police reports the way we've always taken police reports since I've been on the police department in 1989," Newsham said. There hasn't been any change. There's no deliberate effort to reclassify crimes - we take them as we come. And I think if anyone suggests otherwise, they really don't know what's going on in the police department."
Newsham said he and other command officials meet twice a week to discuss all of the major crimes that have occurred in the District.
"I think there was a report here on FOX 5 by one anonymous officer. I think that that report was a little bit of an embellishment by the reporter that was involved," Newsham said. "We would take an allegation like that very, very seriously. It's really important that we be transparent, that we report crimes appropriately, and so if that were to occur, i would be the first one who would want to know."
INCREASE THE FORCE
Newsham said he and the Mayor hope to increase D.C.'s police force by 4000 over the next four years. He said their intention is to make these new officers more community based by having them patrol on bicycles, scooters, Segways or on foot.
Newsham said this approach will be beneficial in that people are more likely to share information with officers who they know.
Their visit came a day after a heated community meeting where a battle continued over police body camera video of a controversial stop and frisk involving three young boys. Mayor Bowser said there is a robust policy in place regarding the release of body-worn cameras footage.
Newsham said he believes that D.C. has in place a strong policy as relating to the release of body-worn footage.
"You got to remember that police officers deal with folks in some of the most intimate moments of their lives," he said. "People want that information to be protected. So there was a series of rules and there was a lot of debate at the council about how to craft a body worn camera release policy which was appropriate for the District of Columbia" "Balancing people's personal lives and the information of intimate moments that we see with the public's right or want to know. And I think we landed in a very good place."
"What we're also preventing people being fearful of calling the police," Bowser added.
Newsham added that in the case of the December 22 incident involving three young boys, he said the stop latest for 45 minutes because police officers were waiting for their parents to arrive.