Crime

D.C.'s Crime Problem

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When it comes to sacrificing civil liberties in the name of fighting crime, Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and his administration are full of innovative ideas. Among them:

• Giving police officers bigger, badder guns.

• Sending officers door to door requesting to conduct "voluntary" gun and drug searches of citizens' homes.

Cordoning off portions of the city with almost certainly unconstitutional checkpoints requiring citizens to tell the police where they came from, where they're going, and what their business is in that particular neighborhood. The Washington Post reports that motorists refusing to answer questions or to submit to requested searches of their cars risk arrest.

Ah, but there's one crime-fighting idea Fenty adamantly opposes: letting law-abiding D.C. residents own a gun for self-protection. Seems that only the government can be trusted to protect you from crime. Except, of course, when it doesn't.

It's interesting that crime-fighting ideas requiring the citizenry to give up some of its freedoms are "innovative," while proposals that would give some freedom back are "dangerous."

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  1. Washington D.C. is the third-world dictatorship of America.
    Who would ever live in that fuckhole? I was there for one day once, and I almost committed suicide by cop.

  2. They really want to become exactly like what most people imagine a dystopian police state to be.

  3. “””Seems that only the government can be trusted to protect you from crime. “”””

    Of course! Protecting yourself requires tools that no dictator was the citizenry to have. Besides, you must be a victim and daddy government must be the savior. They are already coming up with a registry for first responders so they will know who should have access to disaster areas. You’re not suppose to save your fellow man, that’s daddy government’ s job.

    And if government didn’t save you, it’s only because it’s not big enough and need more tax dollars.

    What a joke.

  4. But Radley, bigger, badder guns are so cool!

  5. Those checkpoints aren’t really going to happen, are they? That’s just an idea that’s been floated, right? There’s no way that can possibly happen, right. Cuz that would be totally fucking nuts, and unconstitutional, and would be possibly the most outwardly totalitarian thing that the police could start doing. Right?

  6. You know, other than sympathy and outrage for the resident’s lost liberties, I would have very little to say about this given the whole “each state an experiment”* thing except this is DC, home of the overreaching and overbearing Federal Government. I don’t want the Fed to get anymore ideas on ways to “help” the populace than they already have.

    *I can never remember the proper phrase for this but y’all know what I mean.

  7. drawnasunder,
    It looks like. I suspect the ACLU is waiting for it to actually occur so they actually have a grievance to pursue in court.

  8. *I can never remember the proper phrase for this but y’all know what I mean.

    Thousand Points of Light?

  9. ideas requiring the citizenry to give up some of its freedoms are “innovative,” while proposals that would give some freedom back are “dangerous.”

    Funny, they also called those crazy, interest only mortgage loans in the late nineties ‘innovative’. Wonder how many people discovered they were ‘dangerous’?

    *I can never remember the proper phrase for this but y’all know what I mean.

    Laboratories of Democracy, I believe.

  10. Certainly, legalizing gun ownership will help and even it it didn’t it is a civil right anyway. But that said, DC has an horrific crime problem. As big of a gun supporter as I am, even I can’t pretend that legalizing guns is going to completely solve the problem. The DC government has a duty to protect their citizens. Yes, these are extreme and undesirable measures. But, Libertarians, if they are going to be taken seriously, have to come up with alternative solution. Yes, ending drug prohibition is one alternative, but that is not available. The DC government can’t legalize drugs and since they are illegal everyone else in the country, ignoring them will just let the criminal element that sells them run even more wild.

    There was a really good article in one of the LA papers last year on the reality of life in South Central LA. It is worse than Baghdad there. Absolutely embarrassing that Americans live like that. No one ever does a damn thing about it. Public safety is one of the basic duties of the state. Our state is failing miserably at this duty in many areas.

    I don’t like these policies either, but it is easy for me to get all hot and bothered about it I don’t live down there and the crime there never effects me. If not these measures, then what? Are we just going to continue to let generations of people live in terror in our inner cities? Further, given state and local governments’ powerlessness to legalize drugs and de-fund the gangs, what are they supposed to do in the meantime to protect their citizens and maintain some semblance of law and order?

  11. I was there on vacation a couple of weeks ago. I had no problems with criminals or cops. Although, the Secret Service guy at the White House was the smuggest, most patronizing bastard you could imagine. That must mean something, but I don’t know what.

  12. Will Reason be issuing proper documents for us to carry on our way to the next Reason Happy Hour?

  13. PC,

    Reason can issue carry permits? Okay, I will subscribe now!

  14. What a bunch of pussies! Why not just go for a 30-06 or a Mosin Nagant?

    From the WP article on the 7.62x54mmR round used in the latter weapon:

    “[T]his cartridge is even considered a bit too powerful for moose.

  15. Guy Montag | June 6, 2008, 1:51pm | #

    Wrong use of words. Just documents to gain admittance into their sector of DC. You should still have time to cancel your new subscription.

    The worst thing about Darth Fenty’s new plan is there are so many transplants in DC I really wonder how many have a driver’s license with their home address.

  16. I don’t like these policies either, but it is easy for me to get all hot and bothered about it I don’t live down there and the crime there never effects me.

    I don’t know why it should matter at all whether you live there or how high the crime rate is or isn’t.

    Rights are rights. So you want to talk about getting innovative fine, but you have to be innovative within the legal framework of this country and any innovations must be Constitutional and not encroach on the rights of the citizens.

    I don’t remember the high crime rate exception to rights of the out citizens that would allow theser types of checkpoints or random door to door searches (voluntary my ass — cops showing up at your door telling you you should let them search your home is a bit coercive in my book).

    And don’t even get me started with the slippery slope argument. If DC is allowed to do this, then every big city mayor will try and do this.

  17. Drat! Foiled again by wordcraft.

  18. there are so many transplants in DC I really wonder how many have a driver’s license with their home address.

    Hmmm- you may be on to something…

  19. Now my proposal to make all of the bridges between DC and VA one way (into DC) is looking even better. Getting them to sever the METRO lines may be a little tougher.

  20. “Rights are rights. So you want to talk about getting innovative fine, but you have to be innovative within the legal framework of this country and any innovations must be Constitutional and not encroach on the rights of the citizens.”

    Fair enough Tom. But you better be able to come up with some way to protect people’s safety while not trampling on their rights, because most people are not willing to die rather than give up their rights. You can’t sit around with your head up your ass saying “well I guess we are just going to have to live with an outragous murder and crime rate to keep our rights” because people won’t tolerate it. We better start thinking of how we are going to tackle these issues because this is not going to go on like this forever. People are going to solve the problems in ways that really suck if there are no alternative sollutions presented, but the problem will be solved.

  21. I foresee a railroad. An “underground” railroad.

    *scratches D.C. off list of places to visit*

  22. You can’t sit around with your head up your ass saying “well I guess we are just going to have to live with an outragous murder and crime rate to keep our rights” because people won’t tolerate it.

    You’re assuming two things in error. First, you’re assuming that this will solve things. This is kind of a nonsensical assumption, given the number of things which have not worked yet (making firearms illegal…making drugs illegal…making assault and murder illegal…etc). Second, you’re assuming for some strange reason that crimes committed by govt are somehow “safety” while crimes committed by these residents are not. Balko has been doing way too good of a job showing us that the term “criminals” is not necessarily limited to people not employed by the govt.

    I would therefore submit your argument is logically flawed, and stems from the same kind of emotional reasoning causing DC to take these kind of actions in the first place, instead of looking at cultural issues such as “stop snitchin”, etc.

  23. I don’t think the problem I have with giving cops too much power is really about criminal rights, but about how they will abuse that power by harassing/hurting/killing the innocent.

    If no cop ever intentionally fucked with an innocent person to shake them down and could actually be counted on to arrest/punish criminals who actually harm other people’s person or property, then they could ride around in 10 story anime battlesuits for all I care.

    Giving a group of people with little accountability and an extremely poor track record of wisely using the power they already have even more power is foolish.

    Pouring-gasoline-on-a-fire-in-order-to-put-it-out level foolish.

  24. Fair enough Tom. But you better be able to come up with some way to protect people’s safety while not trampling on their rights, because most people are not willing to die rather than give up their rights. You can’t sit around with your head up your ass saying “well I guess we are just going to have to live with an outragous murder and crime rate to keep our rights” because people won’t tolerate it. We better start thinking of how we are going to tackle these issues because this is not going to go on like this forever. People are going to solve the problems in ways that really suck if there are no alternative sollutions presented, but the problem will be solved.

    John,

    as sympathetic as I am to what you are saying, we can not allow those innovations to turn areas into police states.

    Sometimes though, the cost of freedom is high, and I for one am willing to pay that price. I can move away from high crime areas if I need to, it’s harder to move away from a police state.

    Furthermore, alienating the people you are supposedly trying to protect and treating them like criminals unless they can prove to you that they aren’t seems counterintuitive to me.

    Maybe the police force can do things like try to maintain a better relationship with the residents of their communities, and make sure that all their officers act in a respectful and professional manner? Maybe they can make sure that calls to the police are responded to in a timely manner 100% of the time? This way maybe residents of their communities will trust the cops and help them solve crimes and try to work with them instead of living in fear of criminals and cops?

    Here in Chicago, many of people who live in some of the worst parts of the city don’t trust the cops any more then they trust the criminals. The number of complaints of police brutality have sky-rocketed in recent years and very few cops ever face real consequences. That’s not the way to foster a positive relationship with the community you are trying to protect.

  25. The simple solution is to raze the bad neighborhoods and disperse the social misfits that inhabit them. Dilute the problem so to speak.

  26. Does DC have some sort of abnormal population? I doubt it. I don’t know much about the particulars of the DC problem, but I doubt that DC is so unique that they can’t adopt policies that have been successful in other major metropolitan areas throughout the US.

  27. See, “Neil” has read “The Dark Knight Returns”. The character of “Neil”, of course, would read the graphic novels of Frank Miller unironically.

  28. I was there on vacation a couple of weeks ago. I had no problems with criminals or cops.

    Of course, the neighborhoods of DC with a serious crime problem are far away from the part you’re going to see on vacation unless you make a deliberate attempt to visit them.

    there are so many transplants in DC I really wonder how many have a driver’s license with their home address.

    Yep. I lived there for five years in the 90’s and never changed my Oregon driver’s license or car registration — when I looked into it it turned out to be too damn expensive and everyone told me horror stories of dealing with the DC DMV.

  29. Brilliant deduction Neil/Cesar. Spread the lawlessness around . . . refer to stories involving Katrina refugees from New Orleans.

  30. And to where, pray tell, do you disperse these misfits?

  31. It seems to work well enough with Palestinians.

  32. You are right Tom. These types of things make things worse in the long run. But make no mistake about it, if you get brutal enough, you can stop crime. Yeah, the cure is worse than the disease, but you can stop it.

    My point is that Libertarians have got to be more active in coming up with sollutions and offering an alternative to this kind of thing. Libralizing the gun laws and letting people protect themselves is a good start, but there has to be more than that. Libertarianism can’t be synonomous with lawlessness and it doesn’t have to be. I wish I had a good “libertarian” sollution to all of this. I don’t. But, I think that the thinking shouldn’t be “we hate cops they suck”. It should instead be “there are a lot better ways of doing this than what is going on now.”

  33. And to where, pray tell, do you disperse these misfits?

    Better not be Arlington, VA. My ammo bill is big enough already.

  34. With cops like the ones we have these days…who needs criminals?

  35. And to where, pray tell, do you disperse these misfits?

    They could easily reuse the trail of tears to OK.

  36. John,

    No you can NOT stop crime. In human nature, some just can’t play nice regardless of an overbearing police state. Cuba is pretty authoritarian and from what I’ve read, their prisons are full.

  37. Neil/Cesar,

    Don’t forget to hand out your special brand of blankets.

  38. Washington D.C. is the third-world dictatorship of America.

    Can it really be a coincidence that this is where Our Masters live?

    I can never remember the proper phrase for this but y’all know what I mean.

    I believe the word you’re groping for is “federalism”.

    [T]his cartridge is even considered a bit too powerful for moose.

    Horse hockey. Its basically a Russian 30-06 round. I have no idea what “too powerful for moose” even means; dead is dead, no? And trust me, even a jumped-up 30-06 is at the low end of what you need to reliably anchor a moose.

    You can’t sit around with your head up your ass saying “well I guess we are just going to have to live with an outragous murder and crime rate to keep our rights” because people won’t tolerate it.

    This strikes me as resting on a counterfactual assumption. In America the correlation between “freedom” and “low crime” seems to be a positive one, not a negative one.

  39. Don’t forget to hand out your special brand of blankets.

    HIV. Keep up with the times dude.

  40. But make no mistake about it, if you get brutal enough, you can stop crime. Yeah, the cure is worse than the disease, but you can stop it.

    No John, you can’t. Unless your solution is to criminalize everything and lock everyone up. Burn the village to save it so to speak.

    And at what cost does this brutality come? I have relatives who lived through the Junta in Greece, where there were curfews and checkpoints and soliders on the streets enforcing strict laws — all in the name of keeping everyone safe and keeping order.

    Crime wasn’t eradicated. In fact those tactics turned honest people into criminals and had many many people locked away for minor infractions. There were quite a large number who became anarchists or despised the authorities and undermined them every chance they get and supported guerilla tactics against them.

    I don’t consider that to be superior to living in a neighborhood with a large crime rate.

  41. Well, John, since we agree that public safety is the responsibility of the state [they tax for it, they better provide it] and if you want “some action” other than checkpoints, here’s my suggestion:

    Make a map of the neighborhoods in DC with the highest crime rates.

    In the top X% of those neighborhoods, put two cops in chairs on the corner 24/7. Not in cars. Not even walking around – we don’t want to tax their little toesies too much. Just in chairs, one facing each way.

    If they see anything suspicious they go check it out.

    Do you think that would make the crime rate in those areas go down? Without resorting to making having access to a public way something you need to argue a case to justify?

  42. My point is that Libertarians have got to be more active in coming up with sollutions and offering an alternative to this kind of thing.

    Yes, ending drug prohibition is one alternative, but that is not available.

    The root cause of the problem is the criminalization of self-destructive behavior. If you’re going to take the only real solution to the problem off the table, there isn’t much point in discussing other topics.

  43. “I don’t consider that to be superior to living in a neighborhood with a large crime rate.”

    Neither do I. There is almost no street crime in Saudi Arabia or Singapore. I wouldn’t want to live in either place. But, they both put lie to the idea that you can’t violate people’s rights all the way to public safety, you can. Worse, people will if they are not presented with better alternatives.

  44. My point is that Libertarians have got to be more active in coming up with sollutions and offering an alternative to this kind of thing.

    Along the lines of what Fluffy said, what we’re missing here as outsiders is a clear understanding of the law enforcement methodology that is in place. One can’t offer up solutions to a problem without a clear understanding of both the problem and the current approaches to the problem. Thus, I think it’s unfair to paint libertarians as non-reactive. Being reactive to totalitarian police state tactics does not imply being non-reactive to the problem.

  45. But, they both put lie to the idea that you can’t violate people’s rights all the way to public safety, you can.

    Is living in fear of your government really an example of “public safety” ?

    To me the answer is NO.

    It isn’t really a “safe” environment if you can be disappeared for any reason at any time by the authorities.

    You seem to think that living under the gestapo is preferable to living in a crime ridden neighborhood. To me that’s a distinction without a difference. You are living in fear in both cases.

    Except that I can move out of the high crime neighborhoods.

  46. There should be no Problem with Cops searching ones home…There should not be anything illegal goin’ on anyway.

    !!! Keep Dope Alive !!!

  47. There is almost no street crime in Saudi Arabia or Singapore. I wouldn’t want to live in either place.

    Been to Singapore many times. Haven’t been to SA, but my guess is that Singapore is far less authoritarian that SA.

    As far as I can tell, the draconian punishments for drug violations and other high-crimes is not really a driving factor in the fact that Singapore is an incredibly safe place.

    It is far more a result of a mix of Asian culture and a highly-educated population that is living in a booming economy.

  48. John, why is it that NYC can have a far lower crime rate than DC, yet with a far greater population? It certainly isn’t because they are checkpointing certain neighborhoods (except Sea Gate!).

    The problem in DC is the police and the government.

  49. God bless you Alice. Your “Keep Dope Alive” comment always brings a smile to my face. Gonna be a good day.

  50. Hey, I read Frank Miller unironically. I wouldn’t call him realistic or subtle, but that’s his style.

    Which weapons the police carry wouldn’t bother me so much, but are they basing this “match for criminals” thing on the criminals in the Lethal Weapon movies or something?

  51. Episiarch,

    Why is the crime rate lower in NYC? A little somebody called . . . SERPICO!!!!

  52. I live in ward 5 of DC, just a few blocks north of one of these targeted neighborhoods. I must say that I think the crime rate is overblown. Virtually all of the violence is between rival drug dealers, gangs, or both. I’m not condoning violence by any means, and I think MPD has utterly failed to keep this sort of thing under control, but something outsiders fail to realize is that unless you sell drugs or are a member of a gang, your chances of being a victim of this high level of crime is extremely low. DC is by no means a hellhole (though as I type this, it’s 92 degrees and getting hotter).

  53. Say Yes to Drugs
    And not to all that Bullshit u ear on TV

    !!!! KEEP DOPE ALIVE !!!!

  54. What made NYC a safer City (it was never very very dangerous in the 1st place) had a lot to do with the booming economy and the gentrification.

    Many so-called BAD neighborhoods turned desirable in only 10 years.

    It’s the people moving into NYC that causes people of the lower class 2 move out….resulting in Lower Street Crime.

  55. No Serpico like police officers? BAH!!! Bah, I say!!! I stand by my original comment.

  56. What made NYC a safer City (it was never very very dangerous in the 1st place) had a lot to do with the booming economy and the gentrification.

    I thought it was Bloomberg’s suing of Virginia firearms dealers.

  57. The problem wrt “rifles vs. Glocks” is that high velocity 5.56mm will go through walls in a way that 9mm or even .40 cal won’t.

    If they want more firepower rather than more firepower and more collateral casualties, they should be carrying submachine guns firing pistol ammo.

    I don’t think they are more expensive, either.

  58. If they want more firepower rather than more firepower and more collateral casualties, they should be carrying submachine guns firing pistol ammo.

    When they say “more firepower” they actually mean “penetrate body armor”. Submachine guns fail. Think North Hollywood.

  59. A 5.56mm hasn’t got squat for stopping power. And, what good is a rifle in close combat? Are these “military surplus” rifles full auto or 3-shot burst?

    Semi-automatic sawed-off shotguns for all cops!

  60. why is it that NYC can have a far lower crime rate than DC, yet with a far greater population?

    Well, to be fair to DC, crime rates tend to be exaggerated due to its very small geographic size. DC essentially contains all of the region’s high-crime neighborhoods but because of DC’s small area it doesn’t get to spread those high-crime neighborhood’s rates out over a broader area of lower crime areas like most cities would.

    Imagine, for example, drawing a border around some of NYC’s higher crime neighborhoods and calling that a separate city. Obviously the rates for that city would be far higher than NYC as a whole. Conversely, if you could expand DC’s borders to include Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, etc. (say, everything inside the Beltway, which would still be much less area than NYC), it would suddenly appear to have much lower crime rates than it does now. This geographically-arbitrary boost in crime rates tends to make DC look worse than it really is for most people in the city.

  61. U R right Brian Courts,

    DC is basically the ‘coloured section’ of the entire beltway. If the belway was included it would be just like nyc.

  62. Along the lines of what Fluffy said, what we’re missing here as outsiders is a clear understanding of the law enforcement methodology that is in place.

    My point was also that it’s a question of resource deployment.

    To man these checkpoints effectively, they’ll have to deploy cops to the street corners of these areas 24/7. And they’ll have to cover every street corner that provides possible ingress.

    I’m just betting that merely putting that many cops on that many street corners [DC is a grid plus diagonals, so you’re talking about a lot of streets to cover] and just leaving them there permanently hanging out drinking coffee in LA-Z-Boys would probably dramatically lower crime. Why do they have to actually start arresting people who want to walk down the street without giving them a good enough reason?

  63. Why do they have to actually start arresting people who want to walk down the street without giving them a good enough reason?

    Because it’s not about lowering crime, it is about being seen DOING SOMETHING about crime. Even if that something is unconstitutional and idiotic.

  64. Episiarch,

    Perhaps we need a government study to find a solution to this problem.

  65. Because it’s not about lowering crime, it is about being seen DOING SOMETHING about crime. Even if that something is unconstitutional and idiotic.

    IMHO, it’s also about flexing the muscles of the state and showing that you must submit or else your a criminal. It’s about controlling the masses.

    There are plenty of non-authoritarian ways to “do something” that would be just as ineffective — but the powers that be don’t really choose those options

  66. ChicagoTom, I agree 100%. I was trying to be less cynical in my post but I really should just stop trying.

  67. I’ve lived in both D.C. and L.A., and random violent crime is far more prevalent in L.A. than in D.C. You don’t get many car-jackings in D.C., for one thing, and the criminal element in D.C. doesn’t seem particularly mobile, for another.

    Most of the random crime in D.C. occurs in a couple of ‘transitional’ neighborhoods where million-dollar houses sit a couple of blocks away from housing projects. In such neighborhoods, muggings and other thug shit are pretty common, but you don’t really get the truly nasty predator type stuff I recall from L.A. Apart from that violent crime in D.C. is either gang-related (and the gangs here are pretty small-time) or the usual drunk-guy-shoots-girlfriend stuff.

  68. The more I see and hear about it, the more I am convinced that DC is the best example in support of federalism that we could possibly have. If the Feds are unable to achieve baseline normalcy in their own enclave, nevermind utopia, why do we let them prescribe (and proscribe) so much of our behavior and appropriate so much of our property? Clearly, those are resources flushed down the toilet. The Feds are incompetent to run our lives and our economy, and it is well past time that their enterprise be whittled down to its proper size and scope, for the good of all.

  69. !!! Bring Back Marion Barry !!!

    Those were to good-o-days.

  70. Marion Barry is a Good Guy !

    Just because the guy had a few minor infractions doesn’t mean he’s not fit for leadership.

  71. Light 5.56 bullets (eg, from 55gr M193 rounds) penetrate barriers LESS than handgun rounds. They deform and lose velocity in dense material faster. One of the problems with 5.56 in the military is that it doesn’t penetrate cover like heavy rifle rounds (eg, .308). The M855 round (which is standard issue for most rifles and carbines) has a mild steel penetrator which helps some, but unfortunately it fragments less reliably than M193. There’s also M995 which is officially AP.

    As for “stopping power”, when 5.56 fragments (which it doesn’t always do), it’s VERY damaging. Much more so than any handgun round.

  72. Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and his administration are full of innovative ideas.

    There is nothing innovative about it – in every Latin American country, for instance Mexico, the State simply ignores individuals’ rights and sets up useless check points, just so that people remember they have a government.

  73. Most major political philosophers, e.g. John Locke, believe that the social contract which establishes government transfers the right to self-defense from the individual to the governing body. This transfer ends the “state of war” (or “state of nature”) which characterizes pre-civilized life. Naturally, governments do their job very imperfectly, but in most cases they do a better job of keeping the peace than do a mass of armed “citizens.” The writer of this article demonstrates a pathetic degree of ignorance about the fundamental justification of the state.

  74. transfers the right to self-defense from the individual to the governing body.

    So we shouldn’t learn martial arts?

    but in most cases they do a better job of keeping the peace than do a mass of armed “citizens.

    So it’s an either/or? I didn’t realize.

  75. So are they still hiring felons to serve on the DC police force?

  76. The problem wrt “rifles vs. Glocks” is that high velocity 5.56mm will go through walls in a way that 9mm or even .40 cal won’t.

    If they want more firepower rather than more firepower and more collateral casualties, they should be carrying submachine guns firing pistol ammo.

    Eh, I recall reading some stuff on AR15.com that debunk this. The 55 grain 5.56mm bullet going 3000 fps actually has less penetration in plasterboad/wood walls than a 9mm fmj at ~1100 fps.

  77. Maybe DC should ban guns within the city, that would stop the shootings! Oh wait, you do ban guns within the city. Don’t these criminals know that, how dare they break the law.

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