DC Council Chair says council not responsible for rise in crime

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson told FOX 5 the council is not responsible for the rise in crime the city is seeing – D.C. experiencing a 12 percent spike in homicides from where it was this time last year. Last year, homicides ended in a 16-year high.

"The quick answer would be no…," said Council Chair Phil Mendelson, when asked, "Does the council bear responsibility for the rise in crime we’re seeing in the District?"

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His response came after FOX 5 noted how residents all across the District have called for more police engaged and patrolling. Police leadership tells FOX 5 their officers are exhausted and don’t have enough members. The D.C. Mayor also previously noted on our air, how the council wouldn’t allow for more officers last year only gave half of her request this year.

"Let me say this," Mendelson continued, "You know, I think it’s easy to focus on disagreements between the Mayor and the council with regard to the budget. I think that’s overlooking the fundamentals of what’s going on. We are seeing an increase in violent crime and in shootings. This is not unique to the District. That’s not to say that it’s okay here, not at all. We don’t want any shootings but it’s not as this is unique and there’s something extraordinary happening in the District that’s not happening anywhere else."

 The D.C. Union has repeatedly argued the council’s police reform measures are aiding to city’s rise in crime.

D.C. Police answering an information request for FOX 5, confirmed the District has seen at least 11 mass shootings so far this year, with a mass shooting defined as four or more people either shot or killed in a single incident.

The most recent mass shooting took place before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning on Alabama Avenue Southeast. Four people, including a 13-year-old boy said to be on his way to school, were injured.

Tuesday was a sad day for the District. With the early morning mass shooting included, at least 8 people were shot in just the 7th District alone. This includes that 13-year-old and a 9-year-old grazed in the leg on Morris Rd. Southeast. The night ended, sadly, with a Special Police Officer losing her life on the job.

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Police identified that victim on Wednesday as 41-year-old Angela Washington. An aunt cried she spoke on the phone with FOX 5. The family confirmed Washington was a mother of four and a grandmother, shot and killed while on the job – providing security for an apartment complex in Southeast D.C.

Again taking viewers’ concerns and questions to officials, FOX 5 also asked the Mayor, what it’s going to take to implement more measures – specifically for the Mayor to request the National Guard or implementing a curfew. There is supposed to be a curfew already in place for 17-years-old and younger, but it is for late and early morning hours.

"It would take a demonstration that that would stop shooters from shooting and I don’t know that either would. We’re talking about – you talk about a curfew, some of the very unfortunate incidents that we have been happening at times that a curfew wouldn’t affect. And we know very well that National Guards are not police," said D.C.  Mayor Muriel Bowser. The Mayor told FOX 5 her focus is on arresting those responsible. This year, Mayor Bowser’s budget includes unprecedented funding other services, like violence interruption.   

FOX 5 also asked about crime happening all over the District and her response to those outside of D.C. no longer wanting to visit because of it. "That’s not exactly true," said the Mayor in her response, saying data points to, "where we have seen high levels of crime, where we’ve seen consistent uses of crime and we can also see where we have an acute issue." The Mayor said police and crime prevention is being focused to those areas – and that she doesn’t think people are turning away from visiting D.C. because of the city’s violence.  

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The District has seen 154 homicides so far this year. Last year a total of 198 people were killed in D.C.’s streets.

Council Chair Mendelson told FOX 5 he thinks there needs to be a focus on the small amount of people he says, according to recent research presented, are committing these violent acts in the District. The Mayor mostly agreed with Mendelson.

A double shooting near Logan Circle around July 22nd was the last time the Mayor’s office confirmed Mayor Bowser went to a shooting scene.

Asked about the criticism she is trying to distance herself from the District’s violence, Mayor Bowser told FOX 5, "Public Safety is my first job and I will never distance myself from making sure our communities are safe."