Mar 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

D.C. leaders deny "crime crisis" at congressional hearing

James Comer sits before a microphone

House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

D.C. leaders who appeared before Congress Wednesday rejected Republicans' claims of a "crime crisis" in the nation's capital.

Why it matters: The House GOP is dialing up scrutiny of Washington, painting the Democratic-run city as mismanaged and clashing with local leaders who have long sought statehood.

Driving the news: The hearing saw Republicans grilling D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council member Charles Allen on an increase in carjackings and rising homicides.

  • The federal lawmakers also called for more D.C. police funding and combatting post-COVID chronic absenteeism, or the rate of students absent for 10% or more of the year.
  • Dubbed the "first phase" in D.C. oversight, House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said another hearing would take place in May, likely with just Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser.
  • Afterward the committee voted to advance a repeal of police reforms in D.C. that were enacted after George Floyd was murdered by police in 2020.

By the numbers: D.C. has seen two consecutive years of over 200 homicides per Metropolitan Police Department data — a figure not seen since the early 2000s — and five years of rising carjackings.

What they're saying: "D.C. clearly has a crime crisis," Comer said, days after staffer of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced a staffer of his was "brutally attacked in broad daylight."

  • Mendelson denied there was a crisis. He acknowledged "considerable concern" about crime in the city but said the number of all violent crime incidents have dropped 45% between 2012 and last year.
  • He noted that since D.C. is not a state, its local crimes are uniquely prosecuted not by local officials but by the federally appointed U.S. Attorney's office, which last year declined to prosecute 67% of those arrested. "It's enormously frustrating to us," Mendelson said.

Zoom out: The U.S. Senate voted earlier this month to block changes to Washington’s criminal code that would have reduced penalties for some violent crimes, marking the first time Congress approved overturning local D.C. legislation since 1991.

Go deeper: Why Republicans are targeting Phil Mendelson

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