Growing concern from House Republicans about crime near US Capitol

House Republicans said Thursday that D.C.’s crime problem is undermining public safety near the U.S. Capitol, due to an increase in robberies and carjackings that have affected lawmakers and congressional staff members.

“D.C. crime is out of control,” Rep. Bryan Steil, GOP chair of the House Administration Committee said during a h

WTOP Capitol Hill Correspondent Mitchell Miller follows all the developments in Congress.

earing to examine criminal activity on Capitol Hill.

Steil cited a long list of troubling citywide statistics from the past year, noting that D.C. had the fifth-highest murder rate among the nation’s largest cities in 2023.

He pointed to increases in violent crime, along with more than 6,800 vehicle thefts and 959 carjackings in 2023. By comparison, in 2019, there were 152 carjackings.

D.C. leaders have said that overall crime has fallen in the first several months of this year.

But Steil noted that some crime categories have continued to rise in Ward 6, which includes much of Capitol Hill.

“There were over 150 robberies in the past six months and more than 350 vehicles were stolen,” he said.

Steil said that tourists as well as people coming to D.C. to meet with members of Congress deserve to feel safe.

Testifying before the committee, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger confirmed that his officers are more frequently being called upon to help address criminal activity in the blocks near the Capitol.

He showed a video in which some of his officers jumped out of an SUV and apprehended a suspect believed to have robbed a CVS store a few blocks from the Capitol.

Manger said his department’s first priority is protecting the Capitol complex, including lawmakers and the thousands of staff members who work there.

But he also said his officers have a duty to help address street crime.

“We cannot ever walk away from our police responsibilities,” he said. “We’re still cops and we still fight crime.”

The head of the D.C. police union, Gregg Pemberton, testified that the Metropolitan Police Department has lost hundreds of officers in recent years. While many have retired, many have also left the department in frustration, he said.

He said more than 500 officers have resigned since 2020 and the department is currently more than 500 officers below the level where it needs to be.

“These dangerously low police officers’ staffing levels take away valuable resources from our ability to respond to and investigate crime,” Pemberton said.

Ward 6 has experienced an increase in several major crime categories, including homicides, robberies and carjackings, he said.

One member of Congress, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX., was a carjacked by three armed attackers last fall — less than a mile from the Capitol.

Steil said there is also concern about the safety of staff members. Several have been robbed at gunpoint over the past year.

Steil has pointed the finger at the D.C. Council for contributing to the problem, by adopting “soft on crime” policies in recent years.

He said Councilman Charles Allen, who represents Ward 6, was invited to testify at Thursday’s hearing, but Steil said his office didn’t get a response.

Allen is the focus of a recall effort, which came about in response to issues involving rising crime.

After public outcry about the rising crime problem, the council earlier this month passed a public safety package that increases penalties for several crimes, including largescale retail theft.

Mayor Muriel Bowser later signed it into law, pointing out that citywide homicides, violent crime and property crime have all dropped in the first few months of the year.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton issued a statement on Thursday, criticizing Republicans for renewing their focus on D.C. crime, noting they’ve already held several hearings on the issue.

She also cited the recent drop in crime.

“Today’s hearing is a scare tactic and demonstrates the Republican fixation on reducing or eliminating home rule for the District of Columbia,” Norton said.

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Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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