City Desk

Chief Lanier Deserves Credit For Drop In Homicides

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

In late August, the Examiner published a piece arguing that the District's low homicide rate might be due to the cooler-than-usual summer temps. The story was one of the dumbest crime stories we've ever read. Even D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called the lower-temp theory "idiotic." But the story did at least provoke a little attention on the police department's stunning successes and the city's big drop in murders. When Lanier speculated that the city could see fewer than 100 homicides for the year, she wasn't laughed out of town. Of course, the District's perps did not cooperate.

As of today, there have been 106 homicides. At this point last year, there were 148 homicides. The plummeting homicide rate is still quite impressive. So why is the District experiencing such a huge drop?

In September, Lanier may have squandered some goodwill by stubbornly sticking by and fighting for her All Hands On Deck program. She would do well to let that program drop. It is certainly not worth the money and the on-going petty court fight. In talking with police brass about the drop in homicides, no one mentioned AHOD is a factor. Lanier has initiated a number of other crime-fighting strategies that have both paid off and netted support from the rank-and-file.

Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, who is in charge of the Investigative Services Bureau, attributes the homicide drop to a series of Lanier-endorsed initiatives from IT upgrades to personnel moves to a push to investigate not only fatal shootings but non-fatal shootings. "One thing [detectives] are trying to focus on is shootings that don't result in homicides," Newsham explains, "trying to ID [the perp] even when nobody is struck, what the cause of the shooting was, where the victims are from, what types of associations [they may have]."

Sounds of gunshots actually gets a serious response from police. "Even if they don't find anything, we still track that," says Lt. Wilfredo Manlapaz of the homicide branch. "We look at that—especially the chief and patrol commanders. They may deploy officers there to find out if it's true, call intelligence officers out there to find out if there is some type of crew beef. If there's a known crew out there, based on that, who do we know that's beefing and having a problem with this crew?"

This past Friday night's double shooting at 13th and W Streets NW backs up this claim. Two men were shot. Both would survive their injuries. Despite their relatively minor wounds, the police were out in force guarding the crime scene as well as trying to track down the three suspects. A police helicopter roared overhead. Near the crime scene, one man was cuffed and interrogated. Detectives could also be seen interviewing potential witnesses, fanning flash lights on the pavement looking for shell casings, and patrolling nearby alleys.

The police presence was overwhelming. At one point, a detective hollered at a dude for leaning on an unmarked police car. She even got in his face about it. Talk about zero tolerance.

The other big factor Newsham cited was Lanier's push to get homicide detectives and beat cops to share information. "The street officers know more than we do," explains Manlapaz. "They are out there every day. We aren't confined to specific beats. We aren't familiar with the people in the neighborhood."

Manlapaz says the detective-patrol-cop cooperation came into play in a December '08  stabbing death on 14th Street in Columbia Heights. The beat cops knew the victim, knew people who may have been involved and had pictures of the possible perps. Manlapaz says he put the beat cops with the intelligence unit and the detectives.

Manlapaz continues: "It involved gang members and this came into play.... We got the nicknames from the community and passed them on to the gang unit. The beat officers knew the names already and had information—I know that person, I know where they live, as a matter of fact I just saw them. The intelligence unit knew all of them. They went out and picked them up for us so we could interview them."

Manlapaz says the case soon was closed with two men arrested. "We were able to piece together what happened, why it happened, and locate the suspects quickly."

Lanier has heavily promoted and helped ease beat-cop-detective communications. How? Through roll calls, crime briefings and quarterly homicide meetings where detectives present cases to District Commanders, PSA supervisors, vice units, and selected patrol officers.  Lanier has also initiated an emergency session or two when there's been an uptick in violence.

In May, there had been three homicides within a few blocks, Manlapaz says. Lanier called a special meeting to discuss these cases. She brought "everybody together, anybody that could potentially assist with the cases."

Assistant Chief Diane Groomes confirms this new approach. "Anytime there is a spree of violence, pattern of violence not only to include homicides but carjackings/robberies—we gather the important segments together to listen to the cases and brainstorm on what is needed to close out the cases," she wrote in an e-mail to City Desk. "This includes again not just command officials but those from patrols directly—who work the streets and need this information, and we need their input."

Groomes writes that the mission for detectives has expanded: "There is a greater cooperation and the detectives have also been given the mission to also PREVENT crime instead of just investigating it after it occurs."

This greater cooperation between detectives and beat cops may be Lanier's legacy. It surely will not be her much-hyped gimmicks.

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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Comments

  1. #1

    How does she explain the drop in homicides nationwide? She cannot, nobody has a good explaination. Here is one question for everyone giving Chief Lanier the credit for the reduction in homicides. How do you explain the 7th police district? This area consistently has the higest number of murders every year. Last year 39, year to date 32; the is a twelve square mile area and it averages more killings that some large cities, an average of 50 per year for the past ten years. If Chief Lanier's crime fighting plan is reponsible for the reduction in homicides as Chief Newsham claims, then why does the 7th District have a third of this years homicide?

  2. #2

    Tony: Very good question. I will follow up.

  3. #3

    Jason,

    Here are the numbers from the MPD web site.

    Seventh District Crime Statistics
    Annual Totals, 2001-2008

    These statistics reflect official Index crime totals as reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program. These totals may differ from the preliminary monthly statistics presented elsewhere on this Website for a variety of reasons, including late reporting, reclassification of some offenses, and discovery that some offenses were unfounded.

    Note: The PSA boundaries of this and other police districts were changed in May 2004 as part of the PSA restructuring. All data presented below is based on the PSA boundaries defined as part of that restructuring.

    Crime 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 . .
    Homicide 61 59 65 55 63 44 60 47

    If she is responsible what happened to 7-D?

  4. #4

    I think shes tried her damnest, besides what anyone says. Thank you Jason for finally putting a positive spin on her efforts. Homicides up or down- shes trying really hard and seems genuine.

  5. #5

    We have some of the worst Blacks in the world living in S.E. Ward 7 and killing fileds will always be well represented in this part of D.C.
    Now I see why the brohters marry white, talk white and say fuck you BLACKS in the urban areas. Most of the police,preachers and pimps only want a paycheck,pussy or property they can keep for themselves. The ignorant ass Negroes deserve what they get for idolizing the crooks of our neighborhoods in suits or addidas.

  6. #6

    Lets face it...the drop in the homicide rate probably has very little to do with any initiatives the police department makes. Homicide rates nation wide tend to go up and down together across the board while these police departments are using massively different strategies. For instance in the 1990's Boston and NYC both saw massive drops in the homicide rate white NYC used the broken windows theory and Boston funneled money to after school programs. Were either of these the real reason the rates dropped? Probably not since homicides nation wide dramatically fell.

  7. #7

    Do they count police shooting deaths in their homicide stats? How is MPD doing on reducing the number of homicides due to MPD shootings?

  8. #8

    Freakanomics proposed an interesting theory on the drop in the US crime rate during the mid 90s. They said that it was a result of Roe V. Wade and the legalization of abortion. The people who tend to commit these sorts of crime simply were never born as a result. The authors gave great stats and made a convincing argument. The heads of Police departments across the country took credit for this phenomenal drop, offering very different and often, conflicting strategies as to how this was accomplished. I am not a proponent of abortion, but I thought it was a fascinating theory and served as a better explanation that what was on the immediate surface. I don't think the abortion theory will work here to explain the 40% drop in the District, but I do not believe it was police activity that did this either. I live in a high risk area in NE and witness a ton of polic presence and activity daily. The problem is that they aren't policing, rather, they are often flirting with the teenage girls in my neighborhood, chatting up with each other, and I have witnessed on more than a few occasions, them sleeping in their vehicles. Crime has not decreased in my area. I do not feel any safer and when they did the AHOD thing, I, being of mixed heritage, was singled out for driving in an "all-black" area as the officer called it. When I stated that lived in the area, the white officer in charge was in disbelieve and said he didnt' think I could live there, I didn't look tough enough. He assumed that I must be there to buy drugs, even though he had my license verifying my home address. He searched my car and kept me waiting 20 minutes, hurling various accusations and insults. I was calm and tried to be reasonable, but got angry and finally claimed that I would contact an attorney if they needed to keep me longer. This motivated him to speed up the process and I was let through. I don't see how a drug dealer or thug would purposely drive into a police road block. But at CP argues, AHOD was never a success either, so I'm preaching to the choir.

  9. #9

    Echoing Tony's comments, I continue to be stunned that any reporter could write about homicide rates in a vacuum. MPD will naturally take credit for a reduction in crime, but when there's an increase, point to the national trend. It is the job of anyone else analyzing crime to point out this most basic fact of statistics. When trying to understand the causes of a phenomenon, you need a control. When you test a new drug, you cannot simply give the drug to a group of people and see what happens. You need to compare the results against another group of people who are given a placebo.

    In the case of crime, the "control group" is the rest of the country. If you want to argue that your efforts to reduce crime have been effective, then the only practical measure is to compare crime against other cities nationwide.

    Homicide rates have been down in most cities in 2009. This NY Times article discusses this fact, so it's not like it should be a mystery to anyone.

    What this means is that the specific efforts that Lanier has implemented may or may not have anything to do with what's happened in DC.

    At the very least, a thoughtful analysis would need to compare the decline in homicdes in DC to the average decline nationwide. The NY Times article says that most cities have seen between a 7% and 22% reduction in all major crimes (not just homicides).

    It may very well be that DC is doing better than other cities, but nobody has bothered to actually do an analysis to see where we fare -- rather, they just say "crime is down so it's working." Unfortunately, there are many factors that contribute to crime other than local policing strategies and if you want to understand how your local efforts are working, you need to compare the results to other places.

  10. #10

    ExConEcon: I hope you filed a complaint with the Office of Police Complaints for the incident during an AHOD.

  11. #11

    - Jason, it wouldn't make much of a difference (as i've filed one before) - the best they'll offer is mediation...

  12. #12

    I've complained in the past before and to no avail. I get targeted by the cops because I don't look the part. I don't look black and usually am dressed in semi-formal attire, driving an Acura in an area that has heavy drug activity. I know who the drug dealers are and see them openly trading. I don't understand why the cops who are stationed there, choose not to stop this but rather harass me. This think I'm a "buyer" because I don't fit the description of a resident. Friends say move, but I can't afford to and it's convenient for me. Besides, the only ones harassing me are the cops. It's just such a screwed up system. Cops are lazy fuckers, as ignorant and racist as you can imagine. I get it from both Black and White cops, but the worst always comes from the white cops who treat me like shit and constantly talk down to me. And they are too afraid of the actual drug dealers (15 year-old kids) to do anything to them.

    Whom should I complain to? Other cops? After reading about the tactics used in Fenty's administration, I would honestly be scared for my life if I did this. The last time my neighbor called the cops on some drug dealers making too much noise in front of place, the cops came, the kids went away. The next day, her car window was busted and car was keyed. It seems that the cops told them who called and were pissed that they had to come and do their fucking jobs.

  13. #13

    You can file a compliant with the OPC. And yes mediation is usually offered. But it doesn't usually end there.

    http://policecomplaints.dc.gov/occr/site/default.asp

    To address one other point, if murders were way up, we'd all blame the police. So it stands to reason that Lanier and Co. do deserve credit when murders are way down. Especially when unemployment numbers in D.C. are huge, drug use is actually down according to one monthly court report, and the city's schools are still a mess not to mention CFSA.

    What's the murder rate for Baltimore or Philly? Those are two similar cities. I bet our murder rate is a lot lower.

  14. #14

    ExConEcon - I find it very odd that "every" cop is flirting and/or causing you problems, please I am sure there are some bad apples as every department has but you have many officers that work hard every day where you live to try and make a difference, the problem is the police aren't responsible for raising the children yet blamed when something goes wrong. As far as COPS being lazy and LAZY F... well your wrong again please don't lump everybody in one category. Many changes were made in the department and "if" your issue is actually a valid issue then you should know to take appropriate steps and trust me if the officer did "anything" wrong he/she will be handled possibly terminated. Either way many officers are dedicated to patroling your streets. If you "KNOW" the dealers turn them in call the tip line, it starts with the community your just another person that witnesses crime yet won't talk...Guess you follow the no snitch policy well that doesn't work wait until its your wife/child/loved one killed and you want somebody to talk yet they wont. Oh and yet I do live in the city and in an area that much worse then you describe, I have been a victim and YES I did cooperate with the police and YES it lead to closure for me as well as locking the fool up so he couldn't harm anybody else...

  15. #15

    DC4Life- These are my experiences. There have been a few cops who seemed to care at first, but if you come to my neighborhood at any given point during the day or night, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. I don't for a second believe that their jobs aren't hard or even puts their lives on the line. It's just that the ones I've seen in my neighborhood are wasteful, lazy fucks, who prefers to sleep in their cars or talk to the teenage girls. They bully and intimidate those who they can. The reason I know who the dealers are is exactly the same reasons I'm certain the cops do as well, because it happens out the open, right in front of them. It doesn't take a master sleuth to figure out that a gang of teenage boys, spending 14 hours in front of a house, drinking, gambling, and making "exchanges" in the open, aren't doing anything else. I've explained to you what happens when you tell on the dealers. The ones who tell the dealers on you are the fucking cops. So it's not that I don't a no-snitch policy, it's that I prefer to practice a no-dying one instead. I applaud that you can cooperate and feel closure for any crime against you. The reason I've lived in this neighborhood, without even having any of my family members or self involved in any crime or crime against us, is because I was raised well and I do the same for my three kids. So, please preach all you want, I'm not convinced because you haven't lived through it.

    Jason- thanks. As for the the theory I mentioned, it's just that. It would be almost impossible to prove. As you call tell, I'm not a fan of the police but I will give credit where it due but only if it's actually due. I prefer Lanier than Ramsey, any day of the week.

  16. #16

    LANIER respsonsible for ANYTHING "crime" related? AHHHHH-HAAA-HAA-HAaaaa- QUIT! UR Killin me! HAAAA-HAAA-haaaaaa... too much! HAaaa-haaaa...

    Try "MORE GUNS, LESS CRIME"!

  17. #17

    And this drop in crime has accompanied the Supreme Court's erasure of a 32-year ban on private ownership of handguns ... elimination of the strictest gun control law in the nation.

    Good news.

  18. #18

    The only thing Cathy Laneir deserves is a pink slip. How this unabashed hater of the US can continue to be Chief of police in DC is just simply amazing.

  19. #19

    I TOTALLY AGREE W/TRUTH HURTS DATED OCTOBER 14TH,2009 I AM A VICTIM OF A 6TH DISTRICT POLICE SHOOTING OF ONE OF MY SON.HE WAS GUNNED DOWN IN 1995 SO I FEEL YOU.I ALSO AGREE WITH EXCONECON YOU ARE TREATED THE WAY YOU R BCAUSE OF YOUR SKIN AND WHERE U LIVE.I TELL ALL OUR BROTHES TO BE CAREFUL IN THE WARD WHERE WE LIVE WHICH IS 7 AND 6TH DISTRICT PERCIENT.I WOULD RATHER BE AMONG THUGS THEN MOST OF THESE DIRTY COPS AND THAT IS A SHAME THAT WE AS CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS HAVE 2 FEEL THIS WAY,CATHY LANIER I KNOW THAT YOU SAY IN SOME OF THE MEETINGS THAT I HAVE ATTENDED TO LET YOU KNOW WANT YOUR POLICE OFFICERS ARE DOING ILLEGAL BUT IF THEIR SUPERVISORS AND LT. AND WATCH COMMANDERS CANNOT COME TO THE PHONE WHEN U CALL WITH A COMPLAINT WHAT MAKE ME BELIEVE SOMETHING WILL BE DONE TO EMAIL YOU?I AM INFORMING YOU NOW THAT THERE IS SOME ILLEGAL WAYS AND TACTICS THAT 6TH DISTRICT OFFICERS ARE DOING

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