MPD 1D Commander Hears About Sex/Drug/Carjacking Crimes in ANC6C
By Larry Janezich
Wednesday night, MPD 1st District Commander Ralph McLean took questions on crime from ANC6C commissioners and residents, and offered some additional details about two recent homicides in ANC6B. McLean took command of the 1st District three months ago and has been making himself available at ANC virtual meetings such as this one on Wednesday night.
Commissioner Joel Kelty conveyed resident complaints about the increase in crime on or near H Street, NE, including prostitution and drug dealing on the 600 and 700 blocks of 7th and 8th Streets, NE. He cited a recent virtual meeting of more than 40 residents with Commander McLean and CM Charles Allen where concerns were aired and he acknowledged the gratitude of those involved for the meeting. Still, Kelty said, concern remains high and he noted that some residents were contemplating leaving the District.
There are several reasons why these crimes are difficult to control. MPD is focusing its resouces on violent crime. In addition, MPD is experiencing a shortage of officers – McLean says he has fewer officers today than he did three months ago. He said, “We will work as hard as we have to work, but I feel like I’m singing the same song.” He also pointed to the difficulty in getting repeat offenders off the street, citing two instances where individuals – one a mental health consumer – had been arrested four or five times and released before being incarcerated or referred to a mental health program.
McLean was not reassuring that MPD could do much to address the issues Kelty raised.
He had taken action with respect to another issue raised by Commissioner Christine Healey which concerned violent crime. Earlier in the meeting, she expressed concern about carjackings near the 600 blocks of East Capitol and A Streets, NE. Commander McLean said 9 carjackings have happened in the First District (three in Healey’s single member district) and two of them had been closed. He said additional units had been added to the area on Sunday, Monday, and Saturday, when most carjackings have occurred. The Community Focused Patrol Unit – the mountain bike patrol that is deployed on data based on violent crime – is working between 4th and 14th Street on and near the H Street corridor to address this problem.
McClean offered that it was the Community Focused Patrol Unit that responded within one minute to two homicides last week in nearby ANC6B. He expects the shooting which occurred on Watkins Field last Wednesday to close in the next week or two. Witnesses are not cooperating, but MPD has the roster of the teams which played that night, and a suspect was apparently on one of the teams. Detectives are going through the roster one by one. He also said that the shooting at 17th and Independence last Friday was targeted at the decedent, but police don’t know why.
Kelty’s issues were scheduled for discussion as the last item on the commission’s agenda which was after McLean left the meeting. When the ANC took the matter up at the end of the meeting, Kelty expanded his comments and stressed the need for more police support on H Street, NE, adding illegal use of ATVs and dirt bikes to the list of complaints. He said residents want something done about these quality of life issues, specifically, more visibility by MPD and data on frequency of non-violent crimes like prostitution. Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler said he had heard similar concerns from constituents on 4th and 5th Streets, NE.
Kelty asked the ANC to support a letter to Chief of Police Contee with copies to CM Allen and Commander McLean requesting more police support and noting that many neighbors are considering leaving the District. He said it is important for Contee and Allen to hear that.
Commissioner Jay Adelstein said half the problem is lack of prosecution. Kelty endorsed the need for a local prosecutor to prosecute local crime.
Commissioner Drew Courtney expressed concern that more law enforcement presence is the only solution being discussed and his belief that beefing up law enforcement against drugs is not a smart policy. He said that the government needs a coordinated solution with many facets.
A resident who lives near the center of the activity supported Kelty’s proposal to send a letter and said that the prostitution is very well organized with 4 to 6 prostitutes, two male “security guards” (pimps) and a look out. The resident said they are not afraid of police who drive by “and just ignore them,” adding, “I am one who has a desire to move. This has ruined my life for the past five months. I was assaulted in my own back yard [with pepper spray)] when I confronted one of the prostitutes.”
The consensus of the Commission was that Kelty would circulate a proposed letter among commissioners for editing prior to further consideration.