Crime Is Up, but at Least the City’s E-Scooters Are Safe

Elected leaders are choosing political expediency and finger-pointing instead of addressing rising violent crime head-on

Photo © Bruce Guthrie

District residents are grappling with a second year of increased violent crime. The city’s elected leaders have been intensely focused on safety. On October 1, the city’s new law requiring e-scooters to be locked up or docked instead of just left on the sidewalk went into effect.

The law was voted on in 2020, when Washington, D.C. had 198 homicides[1] and a 141% increase in carjackings as compared to 2019[2]. We’ve had 166 gun-related homicides so far in 2021, seven of which were under age 17.[3]

Carjackings also continue to skyrocket. According to NBC 4 News, Washington, D.C. has seen an over 50% increase in 2021 as compared to last year.[4]

Eleven people were shot in the first nine days of October. Since January 2021, 11 children under the age of 12 have been shot with one young girl succumbing to her gunshot wounds. Thirty-seven children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been shot, with six of them dying as a result.[5]

Accidents between cars and pedestrians and bicyclists continue to happen. Recently, two little girls, along with their father, were hit by a car while walking to school. It was National Walk to School Day. One of those girls will require multiple surgeries to correct the damage to her face. The driver was unlicensed, had temporary Maryland state tags, and has around $900 in outstanding tickets. Earlier this year, two people were struck and killed in a hit and run incident at Hains Point. Their killer still hasn’t been found.

On September 22, Fox 5 DC asked D.C. Council chair, Phil Mendelson, “Does the council bear responsibility for the rise in crime we’re seeing in the District?”. His response, “The quick answer is no.”[6]

He goes on to point out that D.C.’s crime increase is not unique among major U.S. metropolitan cities. Mr. Mendelson has decided that dereliction of his duty to District residents is preferable to working with Mayor Bowser and MPD Police Chief Contee to stanch the literal bleeding.

The Council is trying very hard to appear to be advocates of police reform, and that’s commendable. But, if they bothered to actually listen to their constituents, they’d understand that what residents want is simple. We want to be safe at our homes, schools and work, and in public spaces. We want the city’s children to be safe playing outside, walking to school, and in their school buildings.

The problem is that the work of ensuring people are safe is not simple. It requires addressing the inequities in our criminal justice system and actually making changes to solve the problems. It also requires reforming policing practices while still allowing officers to do their jobs responsibly, so that all residents, no matter their race, income level, or which ward of the city they live in, feel that law enforcement is there to protect them instead of worrying they may be killed. Our elected leaders must create and implement programs that provide real life training, education, and opportunities for D.C’s residents so they can earn a livable wage and provide for their families. It means ensuring that landlords who rent properties that no human should ever have to live in and developers who sell poorly constructed properties are held liable for their inhumane actions. It also means arresting, and prosecuting, the actual criminals so they’re not on the street continuing to terrorize people. And finally, despite the controversy it is bound to cause, it means the Council will actually have to allocate funds to hire more officers so that MPD is able to provide the increased police presence and enforcement that residents are begging for.

As a white resident of Ward 6, I am aware that my outrage over the shooting that occurred around the corner from my home, during which a stray bullet broke through the window of my neighbors’ two year old’s bedroom, is both expected and unsurprising. And, my anger has been met with empathy and understanding. Many of our city’s Black residents are not provided that same level of basic decency and courtesy. All voices calling out for help should be treated with urgency and respect.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that playing the blame game about who is responsible for the city’s rise in violent crime isn’t going to work the way the D.C. Council, or the Mayor’s office, wants. Playing politics with people’s lives is a dangerous game and Mr. Mendelson, along with the other council members, and Mayor Bowser, should note that their constituents are paying close attention to their actions. Inaction is its own action and we won’t tolerate elected leaders who simply do nothing rather than tackle difficult problems.


[1] Metropolitan Police Department, District Crime Data at a Glance, https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/district-crime-data-glance

[2] The Washington Post, “Puzzling spike in auto thefts, many of them violent, worries D.C.-area police”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/dc-carjacking-car-theft/2020/12/22/35b8b812-4123-11eb-8bc0-ae155bee4aff_story.html

[3] Gun Violence Archive, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/charts-and-maps

[4] NBC 4 News, “Driver Recalls Terrifying Armed Carjacking in DC”, https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/transportation/driver-recalls-terrifying-armed-carjacking-in-dc/2791518/

[5] Gun Violence Archive, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/charts-and-maps

[6] Fox 5 News, “DC Council Chair says council not responsible for rise in crime”, https://www.fox5dc.com/news/dc-council-chair-says-council-not-responsible-for-rise-in-crime