Regional efforts to curb violent crime in Washington, D.C., and Maryland have been effective and both jurisdictions have the numbers to prove it.
Those were the sentiments expressed this week in a meeting led by District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, as the pair launched into the next phase of their joint commitment to fight crime and improve the quality of life for citizens.
Prior to assuming a beefed-up approach that utilizes law enforcement resources around them, police officers for the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia often ran into problems arresting criminals who would quickly flee across geographical boundaries to avoid arrest.
Just a few years ago, the problem had escalated, prompting Fenty, O’Malley and then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to come together last spring, when they agreed to convene on a regular basis to share information aimed at crime reduction in three jurisdictions. The information included updates on high -risk offenders, the expedition of warrants and monitoring the movements of repeat violent offenders.
“Our most solemn obligation as public servants is the protection of public safety for working families throughout our region,” O’Malley said in a statement issued prior to the Feb. 1 meeting in Annapolis. “Violent criminals cross borders, and therefore, so should our ability and willingness to enforce our laws,” he said, adding that “these cross-border partnerships are built on effective principles that enhance public safety and stop violent offenders in their tracks.”
Virginia’s new governor, Bob McDonnell, did not attend this week’s gathering.
However, with a focus mostly on the District and Maryland, the meeting measured the attainment of regional goals through Maryland’s StateStat Office and the District’s CapStat program. Both programs are committed to improving the performance of high priority concerns, including the protection of vulnerable and at-risk youth. The District’s program, which launched in 2008, was modeled after the similar CitiStat, which is based in Baltimore.
Among major improvements are that murders in both the District and Maryland have sharply reduced in the past year.
While the reduction rate for both jurisdictions was at least 25 percent, the District’s decrease marked its lowest in 45 years. (The District is reportedly trying to obtain a court order to share information with Maryland on juvenile suspects. But according to a 2008 report by the Justice Policy Institute, juveniles account for only 22 percent of crimes in the District.)
Meanwhile, Maryland has seen a 46 percent reduction in juvenile homicides in the past three years; and overall, last year, the state had the fewest homicides since 1986, according to O'Malley's office. The office also reported a significant drop in regional crime, including a 7.3 percent decrease in robbery and a nearly 32 percent drop in car theft.
Corrine Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said that when it comes to fighting crime, collaborative partnerships with the District and Maryland have proven to be very beneficial.
“Law enforcement officials from Northern Virginia work with the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. and our colleagues over in Maryland,” Geller said. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that we have pursuits that carry over into different boundaries.”
She said that from a highway safety standpoint, collaborations are particularly good and allow for different resources to be brought to the table.
A request for comment from Fenty was not met by AFRO press time. But according to O’Malley’s statement, Fenty praised the partnership, saying, “This year, our strong regional partnership led to decreases in homicides and violent crime throughout the national capital area.”
In addition, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney Office said the collaboration between the District and Maryland has yielded major indictments involving gang violence and the trafficking of cell phones in prison.
“We also have a partnership with the local police department to identify violent repeat offenders and believe that has helped to reduce violent crime as well,” said Margaret Burns. “Our partnerships are [in conjunction with] with local, state and federal [authorities], and involve Baltimore City prosecutors working with [those [branches of] law enforcement for an exchange of information that allows us to all agree on who is the most dangerous in our community.”