D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and police Chief Pamela Smith met with members of a congressional committee on Wednesday to address the city’s growing crime problem, which includes a murder rate that’s on track to hit the highest level in two decades.
Bowser and Smith went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Oversight Committee and Accountability Chair James Comer and other lawmakers.
The committee earlier this year placed the District under scrutiny, with Comer openly questioning whether the city could handle soaring criminal activity.
But the Republican lawmaker and Bowser appear to have developed a cooperative relationship, which led to a closed-door meeting instead of a congressional hearing.
“I do think it was a good-faith discussion,” Bowser said after the meeting, which lasted a little over an hour.
The mayor said she talked about what the city is trying to do to fight crime, including policing, as well as needs related to judicial appointees and prosecutors.
She didn’t indicate that lawmakers proposed providing any additional resources, but said the meeting was helpful.
“I did discuss some areas that we’re interested in the next several weeks, as it relates to youth crime,” Bowser said.
The city has recorded at least 925 carjackings this year, well over double the number last year and several times what the rate was just a few years ago.
Many of the carjackings are armed and carried out by teenagers. A 17-year-old was arrested this week for the carjacking of an FBI agent on Capitol Hill.
Comer noted that a member of Congress was carjacked earlier this year and that several congressional staff members have been mugged.
“People are afraid to come to Washington, D.C. to lobby their congressman because of the crime. So we have a problem here,” Comer said. “We’re not blaming the mayor — I’m actually pretty fond of the mayor — we want to work together to see how we can improve and lower the crime rate here.”
There have been 253 homicides in the District through Dec. 6, a 32% increase over the 192 at this time last year.
The city will record the most murders since at least 2003, when 248 homicides were reported.
Dozens of D.C. residents passionately testified about criminal activity in their neighborhoods during a public hearing on the mayor’s proposed crime bill.
Congress voted earlier this year to rescind a D.C. reform bill passed by the D.C. Council, amid criticism that it was soft on crime.