Chief: MPD asks for help with violent crimes; 170K fewer traffic tickets

WASHINGTON – Increased ticketing has resulted in a significant change in driver behavior, the chief of D.C. police told WTOP on Thursday, thanks to more traffic and speed cameras and a focus on the skyrocketing number of cyclists on the road.

Police have quadrupled the number of tickets issued to drivers blocking bike lanes, Cathy Lanier said on WTOP’s “Ask the Chief.” And last year, the number of speed enforcement tickets issued dropped by 170,000.

“That’s good for us” because it means people are modifying their behavior, she said.

The chief also addressed the spike in violent crime against transgendered people in recent years. Just like she suggests not walking around with an iPhone out, Lanier asks for all people to help police by finding ways to avoid making themselves vulnerable to crime.

The recent assault on a woman leaving a Verizon Center garage is particularly concerning, Lanier said, and she’s hoping the composite sketch of the suspect, as well as the information that he has a distinct southern accent, for helping catching this man.

Learn more about these issues, including the continual drop in homicides in D.C., by listening to the full audio at right, or check out this live blog:

10:51 a.m., speaking about a spike in attacks against transgendered people:

I know we have much better reporting. This applies to everyone: The biggest vulnerability — just like I say don’t walk around with your iPhone in your hand — is against people who are prostitutes, or taxi drivers.

“We’d like to see all of those folks who are in that high-risk environment find ways to increase their safety, and help us out.”

10:47 a.m., speaking about “double-dipping officers” who retire and collect pensions, but are rehired:

The information in the City Paper wasn’t all accurate.

I have three employees who were rehired because of their expertise. They were told it was all legal when they were hired. It don’t think it’s right to fire them just because of that.

10:47 a.m., speaking about her contract:

It expires in April. I haven’t finalized anything new. I think I’ll probably be here a while.

10:46 a.m., speaking about “Operation Manic Enterprise”:

It was a year-long undercover operation. We had undercovers who posed as a part of the criminal element, to get guns off the street.

We came across some “very dangerous individuals,” including Mexican gun cartel organizations. It was very successful.

10:45 a.m., speaking about Segway enforcement:

The Central Business District does not allow them on sidewalks, just because of the volume. We’ve had “such a battle” enforcing that.

10:42 a.m., speaking about the “Occupiers” struck by drivers at the Convention Center last fall:

There is no evidence to support writing citations to anyone else. Our investigation is complete, now it’s up to the insurance company.

10:35 a.m., speaking about Occupy D.C. :

It’s quieted down a little with the cold weather, but they’re still active.

We’re a little over $1 million in costs. Only about 10 percent of that is overtime.

(The police union has said the chief is redirecting patrols from neighborhoods to the Occupy movement)

“He might want to take a criminology class.”

10:32 a.m., speaking about increased patrols in Anacostia:

That was one of our focused areas this summer, which is why we saw a drop in violent crime. What’s difficult is there are many private apartments over there, who hire private patrols.

10:23 a.m., speaking about managing increasing bicycle traffic, particularly with the new CityShare bikes:

That’s one of our biggest challenges. We’re fortunate to not have seen an increase in collisions.

The bike lanes are tricky for both cyclists and drivers. We’ve quadrupled the number of tickets we’ve issued for blocking bike lanes.

You aren’t required to wear a helmet. We had over 1 million bike share rentals last year.

10:22 a.m., speaking about using sirens during funeral processions:

We just finished updating our orders for different kinds of escorts and processions. There’s really no reason for escorts to run through red lights. Using an air horn during a funeral procession to keep it together is permissible.

10:21 a.m., speaking about speed enforcement along southbound North Capitol Street:

That’s a perfect example of why we moved to the smaller, more portable units. We have areas where we’ve built concrete pads on the side so cars don’t run into our cruisers.

10:17 a.m., speaking about DUI checkpoints:

Between the 22nd and the 31st, we made 56 DUI/DWI arrests. I was downtown on New Year’s Eve. I saw a lot of cabs and a lot of SobeRide. I was impressed with the lack of drunk drivers that night.

10:14 a.m., speaking about traffic cameras and photo enforcement:

The overall number of tickets by the automated systems is down substantially. That’s good for us, it means people are modifying their behavior.

2010-2011, enforcement tickets dropped 590,000 to 420,000. That’s a significant drop, that’s the desired effect.

10:12 a.m., speaking about an attack on a woman in her car at a garage near the Verizon Center:

The suspect forced her to drive to a remote area in Northwest and sexually assaulted her there. We put a composite picture of him out yesterday, and hope that helps find him. You can see the picture on our website.

It’s noticeable that he has a Southern accent.

We don’t have any other cases we think are associated with this, but this is one of the most disturbing kinds of sexual assaults.

“Stranger attacks” are the most dangerous. We see a heightened number of those in the 7th District.

10:07 a.m., speaking about the decrease in crime during an increase in population:

It takes a lot of time to police a lot of people. And that isn’t just crime, it’s also calls for service.

10:04 a.m., speaking about crime statistics, particularly homicides:

108 homicides in 2011, 132 in 2010, 144 in 2009, 180s before that.

Our reduction in the last three years is far more dramatic than the national trend. We’re down 43 percent.

You have to focus on your most high-risk violent offenders, and preventing those who might go down that path.

The other crimes that are the most concerning, like burglaries, are down, as are armed robberies (down 12 percent this year).

Our single biggest problem, 55 percent of crime, is theft, like from auto. And it’s difficult for our police to counter those. If you include “snatch” crimes, like stealing a phone, that brings it up to 65 percent.

We arrested about 1,050 last year for robberies. Arrests for theft is very low.

WTOP’s Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(.Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved)

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