ANC6B Special Committee on Public Safety held its initial meeting last night to discuss how to address Capitol Hill crime issues.
ANC6B Launches Effort to Address Crime on Capitol Hill
by Larry Janezich
Posted March 7, 2023
The new ANC6B Public Safety Committee chaired by resident member Lisa Matsumoto held its first meeting on Monday night and elected Jody Kent Levy as Vice Chair. Both Matsumoto and Lavy have extensive experience in working within the criminal justice system and both are resident members appointed to the Committee by ANC6B Commissioner Chander Jayraman. Resident member Dilip Ramchandani was elected secretary. Some 28 participants joined the virtual meeting.
The primary purpose was to craft a statement of purpose and committee members wrestled with the prospective mission of the Committee for more than an hour. They discussed a wide range of goals but came to no final resolution and members were asked to flesh out their ideas and bring them in writing for consideration at the next meeting which will be at 8:00pm on Monday, March 20.
Matsumoto, an attorney who has spent her entire career working in the criminal justice system, opened the discussion by laying down a proposal that the purpose was to raise public safety issues to ANC6B through meetings and interactions with the community.
Some of the ideas about how to do that included:
- Serve as a forum to hear community concerns, decide what can be done, and make recommendations to the ANC.
- Strengthen ANC communications with MPD and received periodic reports from them.
- Examine any future rewrite of the criminal code and make recommendations to the ANC to forward to the City Council.
- Engage with agencies such the Office of the Attorney General, and the US Attorney General’s Office to understand how they work.
- Examine the disconnect happening in the Office of Unified Communications to understand how the 911 call system functions (and at times seems to not function) and assess anomalies in response times.
- Find ways to increase agency transparency when the ANC deals with federal agency law enforcement such as the US Capitol Police.
- Take a proactive look at crime data and talk to experts to try to come up with recommendations on the most pressing issues, rather than focus on rapid responses to incidents or potentially distracting liaison efforts.
- Hear panels or individual presentations to explain definitions of crime and the penalties for committing them, the work of violence interrupters, and Safe Passage Program representatives.
- Request allocation of MPD resources for areas that need it.
- Create an ANC6B email address for residents to communicate public safety concerns to the Public Safety Committee.
- Assess the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act of 2016 – which uses a community-based public health approach to violence prevention and intervention – to see how effectively its provisions have been implemented – especially behavioral health teams – and seeing if there are recommendations the ANC can support.
- Identify ways to support and amplify organizations in the community already working on public safety issues.
- Create an ANC email address for community members to express their concerns to the Public Safety Committee.
It seemed that the consensus was that the committee should be more than an anecdotal forum for residents to engage in a community dialogue about their public safety concerns and more than a vehicle to promote a better relationship between the community and the MPD.
Early on in the meeting, committee member Chuck Burger suggested that steps be taken to develop a base of knowledge regarding an understanding of crime – what’s being committed and the penalty for it. He said his observation is that interpretations of crime and punishment issues haven’t shown a lot of knowledge regarding what we’re hearing from the police and the press and that there is a lot of misunderstanding about what’s going on. He added that that kind of understanding is critical before the committee starts interpreting things.
At its next meeting in two weeks, the committee will work on continue drafting its Statement of Purpose and will attempt to schedule its first presentation on one of the major topics of discussion facing the committee, such as the mental health crisis, the work of violence interrupters, and the homeless issue.