DC mayor, police chief meet with House Oversight Committee to discuss District crime

D.C.’s mayor and police chief sat down with members of Congress Wednesday to once again answer questions on the city’s continuing crime crisis —  this time in a closed-door meeting.

The meeting was with members of the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

"Is [the] message that D.C. Government can’t get a handle on crime?" FOX 5 DC Reporter Stephanie Ramirez asked the mayor after. 

"I don’t think that’s the message at all," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser responded. "The message is we have increased federal partnership and that’s a good thing."

"The message that I’m trying to relay with the mayor, and I think she knows that, is the Republicans of the House Oversight Committee, we want to work with the mayor’s office. We don’t want to micromanage Washington D.C.," said U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Chair James Comer, R-Ky.

Rep. Comer, whose committee has already questioned D.C. leaders on crime twice in televised hearings this year, praised Mayor Bowser after Wednesday’s closed-door session. However, he did not hold the same regard for the D.C. Council or the U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves.

"I believe that the U.S. Attorney Graves is at fault. He’s clearly behind on prosecuting criminals. I think his priorities are in the wrong place right now. We need to focus on criminals, getting criminals off the street, holding criminals accountable and that was the way I interpreted the mayor and the new police chief today as well," Comer said. 

FOX 5 asked the U.S. Attorney for D.C. about the Wednesday criticism from both the U.S. House Oversight Chairman and the Mayor. Graves had recently raised issues with the long-embattled D.C. crime lab and his office having to outsource evidence examinations in order to bring about charges. 

Bowser responded, calling it an "excuse."

"The number one priority for our office, for me — personally being a member of this community, both living here and working here — is keeping the community safe. It’s why we’ve brought nearly 7,000 criminal cases this year alone," said U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves in part of his response. 

He also told FOX 5, "We agree as prosecutors in these thousands of cases that we bring, that we are not seeing the outcomes that we want in terms of sentences, our options for charging based on how DC laws is written and there are changes that need to be made and we are here to have the productive conversations that need to be had to change the system."

The day before, Graves briefed D.C. council members on issues his office is seeing when it comes to addressing crime.


'The system needs to be changed': U.S. Attorney says DC law is failing when it comes to firearms

As D.C.’s crime crisis continues, the U.S. Attorney for the District spoke to councilmembers Tuesday, discussing the efforts his office is making to better hold offenders in the District accountable.

One matter he raised to the D.C. Council included the need to change the Youth Rehabilitation Act

Graves told FOX 5 the law is allowing those arrested for carjacking, who could be eligible between 16 and 24 years old, to not have to follow the same mandatory minimum sentences a regular adult facing a carjacking charge could face. He also told the council those with repeat offenses are also being allowed to use YRA more than once – Graves saying there should only be "one bite of the apple."

You can see more of FOX 5’s conversation with the U.S. Attorney and the presentation he recently gave to the D.C. Council here.

After the closed-door meeting, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser shared what was discussed — much of it has been heard before. 

The mayor told reporters she and her team raised the need for more federal judges and prosecutors, to change information privacy laws that would allow federal agencies to better communicate information with localities and for Congress to finally lift the Harris Rider, so D.C. can create a legal recreational marijuana market, instead of the gray business loopholes that exist today.

D.C. is currently facing 253 homicides, the highest number of murders the city has seen in 20 years.

"We’re hopeful that we will have better numbers at the end of the year than we had at the beginning of the year seeing all of our deployments and strategies and law changes," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Chairman Comer also spoke after the closed-door meeting, saying he believes there needs to be an opportunity to tackle poverty and crime. He told reporters another matter discussed with the mayor and her administration was what he called the other "Washington D.C. Crisis": empty federal office buildings.

Comer said it’s a bad deal for taxpayers who are still paying for security and upkeep and talked with the mayor about possibly selling these buildings for private development. He also revisited co-sponsoring legislation for an old RFK Stadium lease to get the Washington Commanders back.

Mayor Bowser was asked about a 24-hour real-time crime center, D.C. Police will be standing up with the assistance of multiple other law enforcement agencies. She confirmed the plan but would not answer detailed questions about it, saying the police chief will be able to answer the press when they announce the new plan at 11 a.m. Thursday.

FOX 5 asked if we could ask Police Chief Pamela Smith, who was standing right behind her. She responded, "no," before walking away with her team.


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City Under Siege was a popular FOX 5 franchise tackling the crime epidemic in D.C. back in the 80s as drugs, guns and crime rocked the district.