WASHINGTON — A quadruple sniper-style shooting that put students in the crosshairs. A triple shooting happening simultaneously just a few miles away. A man in a wheelchair shot over an argument with teens. A man stabbed and shot to death while at a birthday party.
These are just four of the 10 shootings that DC Police Chief Robert Contee was briefed on within a 24-hour span. And the chief is fed up.
In a joint press conference with the mayor Monday, Contee was unable to conceal his growing frustration with the seemingly endless violent crime across the District, using phrases like "reckless regard" "unacceptable behavior" "disturbing" and "ridiculousness."
“I am pleading with our communities, with our city as a whole, as we focus on this issue, this is serious business and people are scared," the police chief said. "And when people are scared, we have to take a different approach a different look in terms of how we're doing the things that we do."
As part of the District's "different approach" Contee and Mayor Muriel Bowser jointly announced a new intelligence-led policing unit focusing on violent crime, called the Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT). The initiative will place an emphasis on partnership between local and federal law enforcement with a goal of enhancing investigative abilities and removing illegal guns from the streets.
"The places that we have had the most success is when we are partners with other law enforcement, partners with the community," Contee said. "The reason we were able to amass so many resources to the scene of [Friday's quadruple shooting] is in large part due to the partnerships we have had with federal partners and local partners. Intelligence sharing enabled us to quickly identify the shooter and prevent additional harm from coming to community members."
The VCIT will include members of MPD, the FBI, ATF and the DEA. MPD will mostly focus on the "proactive work on the street" while the federal partners will work to improve the investigative components "for efficient prosecution."
“This is about using a whole-of-government approach, but it’s also about focusing our attention and resources on exactly where we know the problem is," Bowser said. "Our message is clear – we will continue to offer people in our city a better path forward, but if people choose to engage in violence, then they will be held accountable.”
When asked why a partnership now, when homicide rates have been trending uo for the last several years, the mayor cited a lack of resources available to MPD, and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.
"Our ecosystem has been upended and it’s not 100% back, or in person, and people are living on the edge," Bowser said. "We need everyone in the system., and that includes the community, because we will get safer together.”
While Contee noted that violent crime over the last nine years has actually decreased, his big area of concern is gun crime, particularly armed robberies.
"Members of the Metropolitan Police Department recovered 40 illegal firearms in our city just this weekend," Contee said. "That number alone, should make every person in this room cringe."
Currently, the homicide rate is 10% lower than the numbers we saw this time last year, but overall violent crimes are outpacing 2021 numbers by 263 cases so far.
"How are we holding individuals accountable when they commit these types of violent acts in our community?" Contee asked. [Some people] deserve to be in jail because they have demonstrated they cannot function in community ... And when we identify people like that, we have to hold those individuals accountable."
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