Violent crime has dominated headlines, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meetings and community discussion as an uptick in shootings, carjackings and robberies leaves residents feeling uneasy.
Thursday morning, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Robert Contee and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) introduced a new, community focused policing strategy heading into the summer months. The “Focused Patrol and Engagement” strategy will be implemented in an effort to quell violent crime and community concern utilizing data to pinpoint areas of need throughout the District.
Contee said he is encouraging officers to “spend time being problem solvers” and engage with the community directly to help curb the violence in the city.
“This is about officers getting out of their vehicles and engaging with the community by being problem solvers, talking with the community and identifying issues, checking in with businesses and apartment complexes, reporting quality of life issues to 311,” Contee said of the initiative.
In the past, summer crime initiatives have focused on an increased police presence, but this is different, Contee noted. “This is intentional, community focused policing in all quadrants of the city.”
The approach, Contee said, will constantly evolve and the department will continue to track and utilize data to make decisions. The department is confident that this plan will reduce violent crime across the District’s eight wards.
Asked if this was a return to old-model of neighborhood policing, Contee acknowledged that it was a turn “back to basics,” but did not touch on the reasons MPD had turned from the model.
“It is a problem when people are still fearful in their neighborhoods, and we want to focus on fear in our neighborhoods.” The iniative will put officers in communities and engage with community members.
“I am confident that this continued focus on impactful community engagement and focused law enforcement efforts, along with assistance from the community, will lead to a reduction in crime,” Contee said.
The Mayor’s proposed FY 24 budget allocates significant funds to grow and strengthen the District’s police force including 5.4 million for recruitment and conversion bonuses for new officers, 1.2 million for educational incentives, 2.1 million, and 18 additional staff, to support civilianization efforts and 1.4 million for six staff and programming for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and employee wellness in an effort to retain officers.
Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With additional reporting from Elizabeth O’Gorek.