Lawmakers and their staffers are being warned to watch their backs in Washington, D.C., as the crime rates continue to climb.
“You think about your safety differently after being a victim of a crime,” House Administration Committee Chairman Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., said after an informational security briefing hosted by his committee Monday.
In the past year, there has been a growth in homicides and car thefts, along with other crimes. In March, a staffer for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was stabbed several times while he was walking along the H Street Corridor, and in February, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., was injured when she was assaulted in an elevator at her Washington D.C. apartment building.
“The goal here is to prevent people from being victims of crimes, to provide them the tools that they can use knowing that there’s crime out there,” Steil said during the meeting. “But also, what are the policies that we need to put forward in a city like D.C. or across our nation that address this?”
During the meeting, Steil shared how, when he was a Capitol Hill staffer in 2004, he and his friends were robbed at gunpoint on his front porch while they were barbecuing.
D.C. Police Union Chairman Greggory Pemberton and other law enforcement officials at the meeting told staffers to always be aware of their surroundings, not to be distracted by their cellphones or stop to talk with strangers, and to walk with other people.
Crime in D.C. has become a focal point after Republicans took back the House and said it is a priority to oversee the city’s liberal Council, but Democrats are also concerned about the issue.
House and Senate Democrats have joined in a bipartisan move to override a city bill that would have revised D.C.’s criminal code while reducing maximum penalties for some serious crimes, such as armed carjackings.
President Joe Biden also supported the resolution, marking the first time a resolution has been passed to overturn the district’s law in more than 30 years.
A local measure to overhaul city oversight of its police department was also rejected by both chambers, but Biden vetoed that resolution.
Pemberton told lawmakers and congressional staffers that there are people who claim that crime is down or not as bad as it was in the 1990s.
“I never understood that argument, that at some point in time, it was significantly worse so we should just accept increases in crime,” Pemberton said.
Homicides are down in the past three years from the 1990s, which marked more than 400 murders a year, but in year-over-year statistics, the city has seen a 29% spike in homicides, and D.C. is in line to exceed 200 homicides for the third year in a row, Metropolitan Police Data shows.
Further, violent crime is also up by 38% year-over-year, including murder, sex abuse, assault with a dangerous weapon, and robbery, and motor vehicle thefts are up by 108% since 2022, the police data shows.
Steil and Pemberton both pointed blame at the D.C. Council.
“The main problem we’re dealing with now is we have a city council that’s gone a little bit rogue,” Pemberton said.
He noted a policing law that supporters claim will prohibit hiring officers with a history of misconduct, strengthen training requirements, and improve accountability in the department.
That law, he said, “completely hammers police officers going about their job and creates completely onerous provisions for officers. It just makes for an environment that people do not want to work in.”
The law has resulted in a 50-year low in sworn police officers while dropping the department’s strength by 500 officers since 2020, said Pemberton.
Meanwhile, Monday’s meeting underscored the political divide in the issue, as no Democrats on the committee attended and no members of the D.C. Council were there.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.