Sunday, September 24, 2006

Crime Puff

Parker-Gray has finally found a champion in the form of Councilman Rob Krupicka, who pressed Alexandria’s new police chief hard about crime here at a recent public meeting.

And what Mr. Krupicka drew out of the top cop should be alarming to everyone in the neighborhood.

Then-acting Police Chief Dave Baker briefed the Mayor and Council about crime trends at a Council hearing on September 12, just days before his permanent appointment.

The Chief painted a glowing picture of Alexandria, where he said Part I crime is down 5.2% to date. He testified that aggravated assault went down 5.6% last year, auto theft has dropped 22%, and larceny is down 4%. But then he admitted that burglaries were up 6% and robberies up 5.3% last year, with an additional 4.4% increase this year. Plus there were four homicides this year compared to one homicide at the same time last year.


But Councilman Krupicka would not let the Chief off easily, and proceeded to grill him about our neighborhood. Here's the Chief's words about Parker-Gray:

We still have issues of drugs, we still have issues of juveniles. In some categories of crimes no, we’re not overrepresented. But it is an area of the city that we need to pay constant attention to and devote resources to fairly regularly, and if we do it consistently, almost on a full time basis we have the capacity to make an impact up there. That’s what we’re doing right now… I think it’s up to us to figure out how we can come up with a permanent enforcement strategy [in the inner city].
But wait a mo. Doesn't Parker-Gray have two community police officers assigned to the district? Isn't that supposed to be the permanent solution? Is the Chief admitting that this isn't working?

The Chief repeatedly described a month-old enforcement effort on the north side as "data driven," meaning driven by "calls for service." In essence he was saying the cops take their cues entirely from phone calls. If you don’t call, too bad. You didn’t create data. It's an approach that can only be described as wonky.

Chief Baker went on to discuss his philosophy of community policing:
I’m the liaison for example to the Potomac West Business Association (you know this Rob) and work closely at times with Del Ray Civic. My job is to look at those crime reports every day, and when I see things like you’re talking about, my job is to contact the president of that association and talk with them and fill them in on the details.
That's worrisome. Most experts would say that community policing is bottoms up, with cops interacting regularly, one-on-one with residents to glean valuable intel for fighting crime. The Chief’s vision is apparently top-down.

This exchange was all the more fascinating because other neighborhoods are starting to realize that so-called community policing in Alexandria has become a joke.

Just days ago, the Growler heard that residents of Chatham Square and Bulfinch Square are sick of the hookers and drug dealers haunting Euille Street (oh the indignity!) and have demanded a meeting with the Mayor.

In fact, citizens are routinely bypassing the police entirely and going straight to the Mayor and Council about crime. The Growler knows that Councilman Krupicka has gotten an earful from some worried residents and is pleased to see that he is taking this neighborhood under his wing.

You can listen to the Council’s interaction with Chief Baker on video at the City's Web site. Make sure you select Docket Item #25.

The testimony is best savored while watching the crack dealers mob both sides of Queen Street or the ho's strut around the Travelodge. Make sure you call ahead, though, 'cause poor Chief Baker is apparently clueless that they're there.