Department of Precrime, sponsored by Bang & Olufsen
Experts across the country are perplexed at a significant drop in violent crime this year. Most major cities in the U.S. are experiencing decreases in crime that cannot be easily explained. In the D.C. and Prince George's County, homicides are down 17% according to the Washington Post.
Reading the Post's analysis of the drop in crime gives some interesting insight into MPD's PR office and D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. While this decrease in crime has puzzled experts, she is quick to take the credit. Now, of course less crime is always good news for the police. Just like putting drugs and guns on the table, showing off a decrease in crime is great publicity for the chief and management.
The city is "on track" to have the fewest killings since 1964 (holy shit!). However, we should all keep in mind that there are another 5 months left in the year, and a dip in violent crime in 2009 does not make a trend. If you ask MPD and Cathy Lanier, however, you'd get a different story.
You'll hear about how the game has completely changed, that DC police have turned things around. Lanier cites all sorts of things ranging from better information sharing to less internal conflicts between divisions, and more community outreach. Also, she mentions, that policing has become very high tech, and that officers are able to attack crime before it happens. This is accomplished by a weekly report of where Go Go shows will be, as well as intelligence gathering into gangs. And, a super-double secret implementation of the Department of Precrime. Sadly due to budget cuts, though, the predictions are only about as good as random chance.
Perhaps some of these measures have helped, and I'm sure we'll soon see touting of the All Hands on Deck as another reason why crime has dropped, despite protests by officers and detectives. There's a whole lot of internal strife going on at MPD right now, and just last week the department revoked the union chief's police powers. This is a great opportunity to get back "on message" and talk about how great things are. In fact, I'd say there's so much discord in MPD right now that anything Lanier says should be taken with a truck load of salt. If crime remains down this year, I will credit it to two things: random chance and the work by officers and detectives. Management has been dropping the ball left and right.
We'll see what 2009 holds as far as raw numbers for violent crime. I'll bet that at the end of the year violent crime will likely be down, and property crime will be up. But even if 2009 is an outlier and there are less murders this year, if I've learned anything from armchair statistical analysis--you can't make a claim that the game has changed.
When 2010 turns out to be not as great as 2009, what do you do then? Do you ask for even more All Hands weekends? Do you claim that you were actually wrong and most of your 'improvements' were for naught? Call me crazy but somehow I don't believe that we've had a fundamental shift in the nature of policing and crime in the District. I'd absolutely love it and be happy if violent crime remains down in 2009, but will anyone follow up with Lanier at the end of the year if it's not?