WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was out last week, held her first public appearance on Monday since Ward 8 councilmember Trayon White called on the mayor to possibly request the National Guard as a serious means to address the city’s rising violence.
White did not mince words, calling D.C. a "warzone." He believes the presence of armed military members could assist D.C. Police and help reduce crime as homicides face a 25% increase from this time last year.
Bowser said on Monday she is happy to have a conversation with the councilmember and shares his safety concerns.
Interestingly, D.C. has been here before.
FOX 5 pulled archives from the 1990s, when former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly announced she would request the National Guard, facing the drugs and violence then. Old reports say homicides were rising and had hit around 380 murders around the time Mayor Kelly interviewed about the request.
"Let me begin by asking you specifically what role you want to guard play in this fight. Do you want them to be armed on the street? Do you want them serving as support personnel in the precinct offices? What exactly role do you see them playing?" a former FOX 5 anchor asked Kelly.
"I think we do need a strong presence on the streets. But I see the National Guard being a supplemental our own police department and operating under the leadership of our own Chief of Police. This is a study that's done all across America. They've done it in South Carolina…and of course, the reason they do it is that these individuals are from our own community. We help pay for them. They're a part of this community. They know our neighborhoods, and we need the added personnel as we tried desperately to retrain our own police officers," Kelly said.
The former mayor was also asked whether the request was an admission that crime in the capital city was out of control.
"We can't do anything about it. We need military help. Well, I don't think that should be interpreted that way. I think we should. I'm the Chief Executive of the District of Columbia. I have a responsibility to provide for the public safety of our citizens and our use whatever means at my disposal, I'll call upon whatever federal assistance is available," Kelly said in part.
Various news reports say D.C. had hit close to 380 homicides around the time Mayor Kelly wanted the National Guard to assist MPD. She wanted armed military members to be a presence and supplement D.C. police with those members working under the control of the D.C. police chief.
"I’m not prepared to talk about 1993. I can tell you that we’re very focused on how we deploy the resources that we control, and we will continue to do that," Bowser said.
On Monday, D.C.’s murder rate is around half of what it was in 1993. However, the 163 murders the city’s facing today is a significant increase from the number of murders seen this time last year, likely putting D.C. on track to see a third consecutive year of homicides above 200. Those 200 homicide rates had not been seen in nearly 20 years.
DC POLICE CAR
Total violent crime is also up 37% from where it was this time last year.
Several residents have told FOX 5 they see the crime in 2023 as bad as it was in the 1990s, just minus the drugs.
"The crime rate is ridiculous. These past at least 10 years or so, it seems as though it’s increasing," one woman told FOX 5. "I don’t know how much the guard can help with that."
"They should consult the police and see what they need, if they need the resources, definitely, yeah," said one man who tells FOX 5 he only works in the District but lives in Maryland.
"The kids in the community, they don’t have no guidance and then [their] fathers and [their] parents can’t go out there and help them because a lot of time, they don’t even know the kids. So of course, the mayor should be in the National Guard to help police the neighborhood. The killing is out of hand, it got to stop," another man said.
The mayor did not comment on the recent Washington Post report criticizing the acting police chief as allegedly asking her commanders for a public safety plan.
FOX 5 asked D.C. police about the National Guard, whether police have asked the council for any other support and what actual recruiting numbers look like in the mayor office’s focus to retain and recruit new officers.
FOX 5 will share those responses as soon as we receive them.