Washington, D.C., is readjusting the way that nearly 1,600 patrol officers are deployed, the Washington Post reports. The plan announced yesterday changes the boundaries of patrol assignments to give commanders more flexibility to put officers in areas of high crime. Mayor Anthony Williams and Police Chief Charles Ramsey said it would improve emergency response and help create more foot beats, bicycle patrols, and other special assignments.
The city is divided into 83 police service areas (PSAs), which mark the boundaries for patrol beats. D.C. Council members and community leaders have complained that there are not enough officers to staff so many PSAs, creating serious gaps in coverage. According to a review of police roll call sheets, PSAs have been staffed below the department’s minimum standards routinely, with some having one officer or none at times.
The plan calls for cutting the number of PSAs to 43 and mapping them to match city neighborhoods more closely. Each PSA will be assigned at least 21 officers, while larger PSAs and those in crime-prone areas could get as many as 90. The plan requires the approval of the council.
“Crime is not equal,” Ramsey said. “What people should see is more officers in the hot-spot areas.” Despite a 2 percent dip in overall violent crime numbers last year, Ramsey has been under pressure from Council members and neighborhood leaders to improve police rotection after a rash of crimes ranging from gang-related homicides to car thefts.
The Council agreed last year to increase the force by 175 officers to 3,800. The patrol force will grow to 1,769 officers in 18 months.