Americans Live In Fear Just Blocks From US Capitol

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A group of roughly 40 Capitol Hill residents gathered Friday morning at a local coffee shop to discuss the recent surge of violence in the area. As the meeting kicked off, another shooting occurred just two blocks away.

According to a Metropolitan Police Department alert, a shooting occurred at the corner of 13th and Pennsylvania Ave SE, and the suspect fled toward downtown D.C. in a blue or black car.

The meeting, and most recent shooting, came on the heels of what some calling the “Reign of Terror” that occurred Wednesday night. Five people were mugged in the neighborhood within 30 minutes, and now people are calling for a larger police presence.

“This is 100 percent unacceptable,” D.C. Councilman Charles Allen, who represents the Capitol Hill area, told the crowd. “I’ve got some neighbors that are very frustrated, and some are very scared.”

Police say they captured five suspects believed to be involved with the Wednesday night crime spree.

In a statement, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said officers spotted a vehicle Thursday night they’ve been looking for after it was used in several robberies. The suspects were apprehended in Prince George’s County, Md., after a high speed pursuit and foot chase.

Police recovered a handgun from the car and the suspects face charges in Prince George’s County as well as Washington, D.C., upon their extradition.

According to Allen, the men arrested Thursday night were one of a handful of groups committing crimes in the area. The suspects, from outside the city, are part of a larger group of criminals who go to the Capitol Hill neighborhood specifically to rob people, officials and citizens said.

“Very rarely are the suspects from this neighborhood,” Allen said.

Another attendee chimed in and said the word is “out on the street” to go to Capitol Hill.

“It’s a target-rich environment, and if you get caught, you’re just going to get released,” she said.

She underscored what many have been saying about crimes committed in the area, mainly that they go unpunished by the court system.

Denise Krepp, another member of the Capitol Hill community and a former lawyer with the United States Maritime Administration, told TheDCNF earlier this month that the large spike in crime can be attributed to the fact that these crimes largely go unpunished.

She serves as a neighborhood commissioner and said she saw a huge uptick in violent crimes during the summer in Capitol Hill. But she said many criminals were given free passes by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the city.

The prosecution rate for misdemeanors in 2014, which includes simple assault cases, was just 38 percent according to the USAO Annual Statistical Report. In a large number of simple assault cases, the USAO doesn’t file charges.

Despite the capture of the suspects, residents still expressed fear about even leaving their houses. One woman, who didn’t want her name to be used, told The Daily Caller News Foundation she just came back from Eastern Ukraine, an active war zone, and she felt safer there than she does in her own home.

“I was safer there than I am 13 blocks from the United States Capitol,” she said. “It is completely outrageous.”

The woman, who has lived on the hill for 15 years, said she now resorts to carrying a dummy wallet and leaving events early to avoid being mugged. She said she has never felt this unsafe before.

Another woman, who said she didn’t feel comfortable having her name searchable through Google, told TheDCNF she has lived in the area for more than 20 years, through the early ’90s when the city was known as “the murder capital,” and she feels less safe now than she did then.

“I don’t even let my 10-year-old walk home from school anymore,” she said.

Councilman Allen sought to assuage the fears of the group by saying he’s spoken with Chief Lanier, and she promised to put a larger police footprint in the area.

Lanier told TheDCNF Thursday that she’s addressing the crime by extending and increasing overtime patrols in the area, though MPD First District Commander Jeff Brown admitted Friday that is difficult because the police department is so short staffed.

Brown said the police force is authorized to have around 4,200 members, but right now, due to massive numbers of officers retiring or leaving for different departments, there are just 3,800 officers.

“We’re trying to hire as fast as we can, but it takes time to go through the academy,” he said.

According to Brown, there are currently 170 officers in D.C.’s police academy, but it will take more than a year for them to be street ready. On top of that, he said, 90 percent of the department’s command staff, including himself, is up for retirement.

Perceived mayoral inaction came up consistently throughout the meeting, with residents claiming they don’t believe Mayor Muriel Bowser has paid enough attention to the plight of Capitol Hill voices.

“The mayor can announce that she’s opening an arts center or cutting a ribbon, but where is she at on this?” one attendee shouted at Allen.

“The lack of urgency is completely unacceptable,” another said.

One man even suggested the hill residents should show up at one of Bowser’s future events and protest. That idea didn’t gain much traction, though.

In a response to the criticism from constituents, Mike Czin, Bowser’s spokesman told TheDCNF, “Through MPD, we have deployed additional resources to combat the crimes residents have experienced recently. MPD will continue to work with members of the community to ensure everything is being done to combat crime.”

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