DC's new attorney general outlines plan for public safety
WASHINGTON - D.C.'s new attorney general, Brian Schwalb, testified Wednesday in his first public safety committee performance oversight hearing since taking office.
Schwalb was actually one of two public safety officials in the big seat. Testimony was also heard from D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Lindsey Appiah. She took a variety of questions on topics ranging from school resource officers and Violence Interrupters to juvenile crime.
The attorney general’s team also testified on a number of issues from housing discrimination to land use matters. Schwalb, however, affirmed in an opening statement, public safety is top of mind.
In the District, the attorney general is responsible for prosecuting juveniles within the juvenile justice system.
District officials continue to argue overall juvenile crime is down. Schwalb told the committee chair, Councilmember Brooke Pinto, less than 10% of criminal arrests last year involved children.
But last year also ended with reports that a record nearly 20 teens were fatally shot in 2022. Juveniles also overwhelmingly appeared in carjacking arrests with D.C. leaders noting last year ended with 485 carjackings.
Elected leaders are also paying attention to the D.C. police chief, who recently shared how he’s seeing more juveniles use firearms now than ever before.
FOX 5 spoke with a D.C. resident who has been calling for city leaders to address juvenile crime in carjackings, specifically.
Kevin McGilly says he’s a longtime foster parent and one of his foster children was arrested for carjacking. The child was "no papered" and not charged after his arrest. McGilly argues if the city is serious about rehabilitating youth, carjacking is an issue it has to address.
"It was a mistake to no paper that case," McGilly said. "It was a mistake to no paper most of them because I … Nobody wants 15-year-olds in jail, I don’t. But I don’t want them to walk away without them understanding the gravity of what they’ve done. And I do want the District to clamp down on these carjackings because if we stop them, it’s just like a virus. If you don’t throw a lot of medicine at an illness early, it will spread, and that’s what has happened."
RELATED: Juveniles arrested for carjacking outpace adults
McGilly and others, including former ANC Commissioner Denise Rucker Krepp, have also been calling for city officials to release juvenile crime data so that the public can see whether the plans in place are actually working. Rucker Krepp also wants the Office of the Attorney General to share diversion recidivism stats.
"The question is why are you diverting these cases? When you divert a case, the first question you should ask is, ‘Has this individual committed a crime before?’ And I don’t think that question is being asked," Rucker Krepp told FOX 5. "If the individual has committed a crime, why are we diverting? Why aren’t we holding teenagers accountable? You know, I’m a mother of two teenagers: a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old. I know very well that if you do not hold teenagers accountable, they’re just going to keep doing things."
In the past, there were some stats FOX 5 was told could not be shared by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office due to the city’s strict juvenile privacy laws.
On Wednesday, the OAG shared that in Fiscal Year 2022, they "papered" or charged 60% of juvenile arrests presented. Around 26% were no papered for various matters, including the possibility of not enough evidence or evidence not constitutionally gathered. FOX 5 was also told 13% of arrests presented are diverted to the ACE Diversion Program at the Department of Human Services.
When pressed further on juveniles charged for carjacking, Schwalb told Councilmember Pinto, "I think the numbers of approximately 88 kids were presented and 60 of them were prosecuted by our office on carjacking cases. We learned from that, that the vast majority of those young people had not committed a carjacking before being papered or presented to our office. And we’re seeing, although you need time to see how these things play out, that the vast majority of kids who were prosecuted or papered for carjacking do not go on to commit another carjacking offense."
This is the type of data community members want to be made more publicly available.
A spokesperson for the OAG told FOX 5, "We have every intention of engaging with the public with transparency and openness, including through the provision of crime-related data. This is part of an ongoing effort to make data available without compromising confidential juvenile information."
"Now in terms of the decision-making that the Office of the Attorney General does, we have to prosecute cases like any ethical prosecutor with integrity," Schwalb said. "We have to use the evidence that is brought to us in order to understand do we have enough evidence to hold somebody and prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s a traumatic experience to be arrested."
McGilly told FOX 5 the foster child he cared for was arrested for carjacking an Uber driver. He also told FOX 5 there was no weapon involved and that the child did not have a criminal history.
During the earlier testimony with Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Lindsey Appiah, Councilmember Zachary Parker pressed on a situation involving another child who was also arrested but not charged – the council member said that child also did not receive any services once released. It was at that moment that Appiah agreed with Parker that in this case, there is a gap in making sure children in need are getting the services.
Watch the new attorney general outline his plan for juvenile crime in the District here: