Capital One Arena beefs up security as DC struggles with police staffing

With fan safety in mind, Monumental Sports owner Ted Leonsis is hiring more D.C. police officers to bulk up security around Capital One Arena on game days, after Mayor Muriel Bowser said the department doesn’t have enough officers to increase patrols downtown.

Monumental Sports confirmed in a statement that it hired 20% more off-duty D.C. police officers on game days over the last season — with up to a dozen officers working each event, on top of those assigned to street closures.

“We have up to a dozen MPD officers each event night — from a roster pool of nearly 60 officers — whom we pay on top of the police provided by MPD’s Special Operations Division for F Street closure on game days,” said Anu Rangappa, senior vice president of communications for Monumental Sports.

She noted the increase in security presence isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a spike in crime, or a specific incident, rather that Leonsis wants his fans to enjoy themselves without having to worry at all about their safety.

Overall, violent crime in the District is down 4% from last year at this time. But city officials said perception matters, not only for games but the city’s economic growth.

“It has been one of the top issues that stakeholders in the business community have raised when I asked them what concerns them most,” at-large Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie said of public safety.

“We want them to feel safe in order to come and spend their money and support the revenues that we need,” he said.

In presenting her budget, which includes funds to hire more officers, Bowser said plainly that the city has to train civilians and work with downtown businesses to hire security if it wants additional police downtown.

“We need more presence, but it won’t necessarily be police. Because in order to do that, I’m taking police out of Ward 8 or 4 or 5, like the downtown, and Ward 2 are going to certainly have its fair share of police,” Bowser said.

According to Rangappa, Monumental is doing just that, and is working with other downtown partners to explore alternative security options.

“Together with our Downtown BID partners, we are also evaluating the most effective use of Reimbursable Detail Officers (RDOs) to patrol around our Chinatown neighborhood, but have moved forward with securing our own officers in the meantime,” the statement said.

D.C. police sits at just over 3,375 officers, far short of the 4,000 Chief Robert Contee wants to see in his department.

Megan Cloherty

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

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