Spike in street crime, including street racing, ticks off acting DC police chief as summer anti-crime effort launches

D.C. is recovering from a deadly weekend, during which 11 people were shot, including a 7-year-old girl, just as it’s about to kick off its yearly effort to curb summer crime.

A day before the council is expected to vote him in as police chief, Robert Contee expressed his frustration with the ongoing violence.

“It really ticks me off, to be quite frank with you, when we have these senseless acts of violence that occur in our city,” Contee said.

The 7-year-old victim was sitting up and watching TV, Contee said, indicating that she is recovering from her wound.

“I’m encouraged by that. I’m also encouraged, you know, as I look at some of the crimes that have occurred just in the last 30 days, I’ve been reaching out to community, talking to community about coming forward. If there’s one positive thing that I will say is that in the last couple of cases that I’ve seen, including the ones from this weekend, we are receiving cooperation from the community,” Contee said.

As the city jump-starts another Summer Crime Prevention Initiative, he acknowledged that homicides are up 38% from this time last year. He implored the community to get involved.

“The phone should be ringing off the hook right now as a result of what happened over there with that 7-year-old that got shot,” he said.

The six neighborhoods that will see increased enforcement during the Summer Crime Initiative are chosen based on crime statistics and recent activity.

“For example, the things that were happening last year might not be happening right now this year,” Contee said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser stressed that the police department doesn’t take on the summer focus alone, but that it has shown real change in past years.

D.C. police and federal law enforcement partners, the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, DC Housing Authority and a host of nonprofit and private organizations work to make the program a success, she said.

“Last year, for example, the Summer Crime Initiative was very effective in reducing theft in those areas by 46%, reducing burglaries by 29% and producing an overall decrease in violent crime by 10%. And overall crime decreased by 25%,” Bowser said.

Contee also addressed a recent incident in which four officers appeared to be racing before crashing in Northeast D.C.

He said one of the officers, who was in a probationary period, has been fired. The other three are the focus of an internal investigation. Contee called the incident “embarrassing.”

The department has released a body-worn camera video from the incident.

A D.C. police spokeswoman said the audio is muted because the officer did not start recording until after the crash.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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