Friday, January 06, 2006

The Crime Beat Goes On

The Growler is interested to see that the Gazette Packet continues to put the violent crime problem in the Inner City on its front page. With two murders in December alone, a rash of assaults in 2005 and a flourishing drug market at Queen and Fayette, it’s about time someone noticed the problem is growing.

The City’s latest crime measure is to open a substation – in Arlandria. This, despite the fact that four of the five homicides in Alexandria between January 1, 2004 and January 6, 2006 were committed in Parker-Gray. Go figure.

But there’s a couple of things the Growler would like to say about crime in Parker-Gray.

First, seeing a policeman in Parker-Gray, particularly one on foot, is about as likely as a sighting of the ivory billed woodpecker. In a word, police presence is nearly extinct. The Gazette Packet was told there are two community police officers assigned to the neighborhood as well as one part-timer. But they are rarely seen and if the purpose is to provide deterrence by a visible presence, the effect is negligible.

Serious crimes like homicide, armed robbery and assault are rising because zero tolerance in Parker-Gray has faded away. Alexandria’s police have done little or nothing to crack down on non-violent offenses in Parker-Gray, including drug dealing, prostitution and littering.

Police as well as neighbors are fully aware which corners, which local homes and which local players contribute to the problem, serving as magnets to draw low life from all over the metropolitan area to Parker-Gray. It would appear to the Growler that making life tough for these folks would be about as difficult as shooting fish in a barrel, given a little surveillance and a few undercover guys. Apparently the City’s narcotics squad is getting complacent because the jump-outs that used to occur regularly are just a memory now.

Mayor Euille has been invited to the Inner City Civic Association’s January meeting and is bringing along City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa. If Mr. Pessoa is being trotted out, it’s not because he is in charge of public safety – he’s probably there to explain how the City has no legal authority over the the independent Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA).

If so, that means once again ICCA leadership is myopically focused on public housing, though not all of the murders and other violent offenses have occurred on public housing sites and not all the perpetrators – at least those who have been apprehended – live in public housing.

Real community policing throughout the neighborhood with foot patrols, regular interaction with residents – not just at monthly ICCA meetings – and a squad car prominently in sight at Queen and Fayette and other hot locations would have more immediate impact than trying to squeeze ARHA.