UPDATED: Aug. 3, 2015 7:14 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Police chiefs from America’s largest cities gathered at the Newseum in D.C. Monday to hash out new strategies for combating a surge in violent crime.
“What changed 30 years of dramatic violent crime declines, what happened to change that,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier while hitting the core question that brought this group together.
According to statistics released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, homicides have jumped by 19 percent this year in big cities. At the top of a list of recommendations, the group is asking for stronger gun laws to help stem the tide of violent crime.
“We’re going to shooting scenes where you’ve got more and more victims being shot, more spent rounds being collected as evidence and we’re finding more and more high capacity magazines involved in these shootings,” says MCCA President and Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger.
Both Manger and Lanier dismissed the prospect that this jump in violent crime may be attributed to the softening of policing in the wake of incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore.
“The fact is that this notion that police are backing off from doing their job is not supported by the statistics,” Manger says.
Manger said the number of guns being taken off the street is an indication that police are not stepping down enforcement. But, the need to strengthen the relationship between police and communities was a key theme.
“All of us have to ask ourselves, did the tactics that we use to reduce crime [over the past 10-20 years] alienate the community?” Manger asks. “If you don’t have a trusting relationship with the community then you’re not being as effective in your service delivery as you can.”
The spread of synthetic drugs is also cited as a growing problem that is complicating policing.
“Consistently we have seen that drugs historically have been and always will be a part of the violent crime cycle, because people are going to compete for territory and that brings violence,” Lanier says.
The group is recommending the development of more accurate field tests and better drug screening to show when someone is under the influence of synthetic drugs.
Even with a list of recommendations, the police chiefs are quick to point out that there is no single cause behind this recent spike in violence nationally.
“I will tell you that there is no clear answer as to why this is happening right now,” Manger says.