I live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, and crime is terrible. One example of the public safety crisis in the city came when members of the Biden administration had to worry the worst had happened to the vice president. Secret Service members reacted to a reported gunshot near the residence of Kamala Harris. The protective detail for the vice president and her husband Doug Emhoff had to spring into action.
What Took Place?
The incident happened on April 17 at about 1:30 in the morning outside the Naval Observatory at 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. Lt. Paul Mayhair of the Secret Service said in a statement that additional officers arrived in the vicinity after reports of a single gunshot.
The good news is that no one was wounded and there was little indication that the shot was specifically targeting the vice president or the second gentleman, Mayhair said. The Secret Service blocked off the roads in reaction to what could have been a devastating crime scene.
Thankfully, Harris and Emhoff were not staying at home. They were both in Los Angeles. The couple was on the West Coast because Harris was taping an episode of a talk show and visiting a company that specialized in green energy products.
The Secret Service is continuing to investigate. They examined a broken stoplight nearby that may have been where the bullet landed, and they are likely to beef up security in an area that is already heavily guarded.
Crime Is a Serious Problem in D.C.
Crime in the nation’s capital has been atrocious recently. In 2022, there were 203 homicides. Murders numbered over 200 for the second year in a row. This year there have already been 65 homicides, according to DC Metro Police as of April 18.
Reports of sexual abuse in the District have increased 53% from last year, with 49 instances of sexual assault in this year alone. Motor vehicle theft is terrible. Criminals have committed hundreds of car-jackings. There were nearly 2,000 car thefts this year so far, a 106% increase compared to last year. All together, property crime has risen 29% and all crimes reported have gone up 25% year-over-year in Washington.
Crime in the nation’s capital has long been associated with areas in Southwest and Southeast D.C. Now it has spread to numerous locations in the city, especially around wealthier parts of Northwest D.C. and in the central business district.
According to City-Data.com, D.C. has a crime rate that is nearly twice the national average.
Even the liberal editorial board of The Washington Post has noticed the problem. “The alarming regularity of violence — predominantly gun violence — is a serious problem in DC. The city government has undertaken myriad efforts to combat violent crime — establishing the office of gun violence prevention, investing millions of dollars in crime-related community-based initiatives and initiating new police offensives — but so far the city seems no safer,” the board wrote in an editorial last fall.
Michael D. Shankle, chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in the Chinatown area, said “People are angry. We feel like we don’t have enough support.”
I can attest to problems around Chinatown. There is often a strong smell of marijuana outside the metro stop, even though there is a police substation within yards of the train station. My extended family was accosted by a mentally disturbed man near the police office last summer, and we were offered to purchase narcotics from someone else. But the police department substation in Chinatown has been vacated – likely because of a shortage of officers.
While the last incident with the shot fired near the vice president’s residence may not be part of the crime wave, it is a cry for help in the city. There is no way the vice president and her husband should be threatened in that manner. It will be up to the Secret Service to increase its protective force, if police efforts in Washington fail to create an adequate environment of public safety near the VP’s house.
Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.