Mar 5, 2022 - News

D.C. mayoral candidates clash over rising crime

Robert White, Muriel Bowser and Trayon White photos
From left: Council member Robert White Jr., Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council member Trayon White Sr. Photos: Michael Robinson Chavez, Jahi Chikwendiu, Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rising crime in the nation's capital took center stage at the year's first D.C. mayoral debate on Saturday, with Mayor Muriel Bowser and challengers outlining competing approaches to addressing violence.

Why it matters: Mirroring the public safety debate in other cities, Democrats are clashing over whether the District should hire more police officers or invest in social services and other interventions.

  • Bowser is seeking a third term and wants a mix of more officers to boost visibility in neighborhoods and spending money on programs such as violence interrupters. The D.C. Council last year scaled down her proposal to hire more cops, even as the number of police officers declines.
  • At-large Council member Robert White, who opposed Bowser's proposal for more officers, said he would focus on addressing young people who feel neglected and turn to violence.
  • Homicides have increased for four straight years, reaching 226 killings last year.

What they're saying: Candidates agreed on the scope of the public safety issue, but Council members Robert White and Trayon White disagreed with Bowser on hiring more officers.

  • "We need solutions. You can't create a solution without first addressing the problem," said Ward 8 Council member Trayon White.

The big picture: The in-person two-hour debate touched on several topics related to Ward 7, long affected by poverty and access to basic amenities such as grocers and retail enjoyed by the rest of the city. Ward 7 Democrats hosted the debate and recorded a livestream.

  • Bowser defended her record and teased that another grocery store may be opening in the ward, after construction on the first grocer east of the Anacostia River in a decade began in January.

Between the lines: Robert White attacked several of the mayor's slogans as "empty hashtags," calling out ones such as "Alice Deal for All," a reference to the middle school in Tenleytown that Bowser in 2014 held as a model for improving public schools citywide.

Three other candidates — James Butler, Andre Davis and Leland Andre Core — also participated and aimed to introduce themselves to the audience.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Andre Davis' first name.

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