Police leaders meet in DC as murder rates spike nationwide
WASHINGTON - Big concerns over a spike in violent crime in Washington D.C. and in major cities nationwide brought some of America's big city police chiefs together on Monday for a strategy summit.
What the police chiefs realized after sharing their stories of crime and enforcement is that they can't answer why there is a spike in violent crime.
One of the areas seeing the biggest surge is Chicago -- specifically in homicide rates. This year, 246 people have been murdered in the city. In Milwaukee, police are trying to get a handle on a homicide rate that is up 85 percent.
It is a similar story in Houston with murders up 50 percent.
In our area, 191 people have been murdered in Baltimore. That is a 55 percent increase from last year. D.C. is up 26 percent with 87 murders.
Police chiefs and prosecutors from about 30 major cities across the country all agree they feel a change when it comes to violent crime.
"When you see shootings with six or seven guns involved, 50 or 60 rounds fired, children being shot, increasing numbers of collateral victims, it is extremely concerning to us and I listened today as city after city after city said exactly the same thing," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
Why it is happening is the mystery, but these big cities are seeing a pattern of problems that they all share and need to address.
These cities are reporting a 30 percent spike in violent offenders who are high on synthetic drugs when they commit violent crimes. The police chiefs want accurate field tests and drug screening that identifies synthetic drugs and they want testing to be required for people on parole.
Cities are seeing a rise in crime scenes with multiple shooters, multiple victims and guns that have high-capacity magazines. They want tougher penalties for anyone committing crimes with high-capacity magazines.
They also point out a relatively small group of repeat offenders in these communities are committing most of the violent crimes. They want to look at who should be kept locked up longer and what is being done to prepare criminals to reenter society. They suggest making things like job skill training and high school education a condition of release.
The chiefs also want to focus on community trust. When you look at the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore, it became obvious the community had a history of mistrust with police. Now, many police officers fear prosecution for doing their jobs.
There is one more shared problem: sentencing.
"Instead of just saying, 'Let's get everybody out,' let's look at who we're letting out because there are some people that frankly if they are behind bars, our communities are safer and let's identify those individuals and keep them behind bars," said Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, who is also the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
The chiefs also admit they have to look at whether some of their police tactics are creating mistrust within their communities. They are vowing to better use social media to connect with their residents.