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Washington, DC Police Union set to declare city crime a ‘crisis’ in House hearing as staffing continues to decline

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(WASHINGTON) — The Washington, D.C. Police Union is set to declare a “crisis” during its testimony at a hearing before lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday. The hearing, which will focus on the impact of crime in Washington on Congressional operations and visitors, comes a little over a week after the city passed a bill aimed at curbing crime in the nation’s Capital.

Although violent crime is down 17% compared to the same time last year, crime was up significantly in 2023, especially in Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill. The ward experienced “a 188% increase in homicides, a 66% increase in robberies, a 42% increase in sex assaults, a 57% increase in carjackings, and a 44% increase in violent crime” last year, according to planned testimony from Gregg Pemberton, chairman of the D.C. Police Union, and obtained by ABC News.

Pemberton will further reveal that since 2020, the Metropolitan Police Department has lost 1,426 officers, one-third of its department. Forty percent of those leaving the department were people who resigned specifically from the police agency. He says the police force has over 500 vacancies and notes that Police Chief Pam Smith has said it will take over a decade to fill the positions.

“D.C. residents and business owners are under siege. Members of Congress are being assaulted and carjacked. Your Congressional Staff members are being robbed and stabbed. Tourists and visitors, your constituents, are being targeted and attacked. Yet, the D.C. Council fails to admit that their policies have played a significant role in this outcome,” Pemberton’s remarks read.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this month attacked Washington’s crime bill with a new series of bills just days after the city council passed a major series of sweeping public safety bills aimed at curbing crime and closing significant loopholes by finally updating the district’s criminal code for the first time since 1901. The last attempt to update the archaic crime code failed in 2023, and Republicans in the House and Senate blocked the bills from becoming law. Because D.C. is not a state, Congress has oversight of the city’s governance.

Despite his support of D.C. statehood, President Joe Biden refrained from intervening in 2023, publicly saying he would not block Republicans’ efforts to kill the city’s crime bill.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement earlier this month, “I am deeply concerned about the violent crime spike in D.C., though violent crime is down this year. On Tuesday, the D.C. Council passed legislation that it believes will reduce crime. To suggest that a member of Congress from Florida knows or cares more about public safety in D.C. than D.C.’s locally elected officials is patronizing.”

Holmes Norton noted that this is the ninth bill Congress has marked up to repeal or amend, which was created by the D.C. city council, the only local legislative body in D.C.

Additionally, on Thursday, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger is slated to speak about plans to create a new Protective Intelligence Operations Center, which he says will “include monitoring for protectees and intelligence analysis.”

The new plans call for creating a “command center for our Protective Services Bureau.”

Manger plans to tell Congress the PIOC is a “critical law enforcement tool” in keeping folks safe.

The PIOC is expected to help with “case intake of threats, Intelligence operations, and Event Security/LE Coordination, air operations monitoring, detail tracking, residential security,” according to Manger’s testimony, which was posted online ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

In his planned remarks, he notes threats have “morphed from securing our buildings and dealing with traditional criminal activity to the threat of a 9/11 scenario to the lone offender and now to an unprecedented increase in threats to Members and their families.”

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