With Crime Soaring, DC Considers Removing Police From Property Crime Investigations

With almost no thefts leading to arrests already, DC looks to take a page from Baltimore and San Francisco and stop sending cops at all.
A D.C. Metropolitan Police Department police cruiser / John M. Chase / Getty Images
A D.C. Metropolitan Police Department police cruiser / John M. Chase / Getty Images

With murders at the highest rate in years, the nation’s capital may soon not even send police officers to investigate property crimes, instead sending civilians with no badge or gun.

A majority of the Washington, D.C., city council has signed on to a bill that would allow “civilian investigators” to handle crimes like theft because police are so overwhelmed with active violent crimes. The council’s chairman Phil Mendelson said in a letter that his bill, the “Evidence-Based Gun Violence Reduction and Prevention Act of 2023,” is modeled after Baltimore and San Francisco, which he claims “have adopted successful initiatives like this.”

The bill, which has the support of seven of the council’s twelve members, says “The Metropolitan Police Department is hereby authorized to employ and allow civilian personnel to investigate the following types of incidents when there is no expected suspect contact: (1) Commercial burglary; (2) Residential burglary; (3) Motor vehicle theft; (4) Theft; (5) Forgery; (6) Fraud; and (7) Other property crime investigations.”

Property crimes threaten to derail D.C. as a viable business and commerce center. Property crime has risen 25% since last year. Theft other than cars is the most common crime in the district, and it has surged dramatically this year, from 905 cases in January to 1,400 in November.

This week, robbers stole a quarter-million dollars in merchandize from the Chanel store in City Center, a luxury shopping area. The store is also near the sports arena where the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards play. The sports teams’ owners last week announced their intent to move to Virginia amidst a sense of rampant crime around the stadium.

The move to civilian investigators is likely to bolster the already-present sense that there will be no accountability for theft. Someone from the police department may come and take down a report, but that is often the last action they will take.

According to a Daily Wire review of police data, in 2022 there were 18,650 instances of theft (excluding the stealing of cars) and only 729 arrests of adults where theft was the top charge, and 17 arrests of juveniles, excluding cases where the arrest was expunged. That would amount to less than a 4% clearance rate.

The legislation says civilian investigators would not have badges or guns and could not make arrests.

“Investigators shall be issued a uniform that is substantially different in color and style from that of a sworn officer of the Metropolitan Police Department,” and “any vehicles issued to or used by an investigator shall not bear markings or symbols that identify the vehicle as a police cruiser or patrol vehicle,” it says.

Asked whether the move represents throwing in the towel on property crimes, a spokeswoman for Mendelson referred The Daily Wire to the letter for evidence of the idea’s history of success.

According to a news story cited by Mendelson, the idea comes from Mesa, Arizona, when George Gascon was police chief. Gascon went on to become police chief in San Francisco, where he took the idea with him. Gascon also promoted no-cash bail and treating people up to 24 years old as essentially youth — a similar policy to the one that D.C. law enforcement has blamed for the epidemic of carjackings.

The mayor of San Francisco declined to endorse Gascon for Los Angeles district attorney after his soft-on-crime policies there. He won the Los Angeles prosecutor position, but faced calls for a recall as property crimes surged.

During the defund-the-police movement of 2022, Baltimore also adopted the idea, slashing 30 police positions and replacing them with 30 civilian “investigators.”

Following years of anti-police rhetoric and soft-on-crime policies by politicians, D.C. is having a difficult time recruiting police, and the legislation says the civilians are not intended to replace police positions, but to deal with the fact that police are stretched thin dealing with violent crime and it is unable to attract more sworn officers.

In 2018, DC had 261 police recruits, which declined to only 37 in 2021. In fiscal year 2023, it was 130, according to police department data.

Mendelson’s letter began, “Violent crime is occurring at levels not seen in the District since the early 2000s. This year alone, over 260 people have been murdered, and thousands more have been violently assaulted, robbed, or carjacked. We can and must do better.”

It’s a sharp change from just a few months ago, when those who warned of soaring crime were dismissed as conservatives peddling conspiracy theories. In March, Mendelson told Congress “there is not a crime crisis in Washington, D.C.”

Create a free account to join the conversation!

Already have an account?

Log in

Got a tip worth investigating?

Your information could be the missing piece to an important story. Submit your tip today and make a difference.

Submit Tip
Download Daily Wire Plus

Don't miss anything

Download our App

Stay up-to-date on the latest
news, podcasts, and more.

Download on the app storeGet it on Google Play
The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  With Crime Soaring, DC Considers Removing Police From Property Crime Investigations