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National

A Plan To Boost Police Presence Causes Friction In The Nation's Capital

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here in the United States in Washington, D.C., violent crime is on the rise. That has led to a plan to intensify policing, which is causing friction in a city where people had been focused on the excesses of police. Here's Patrick Madden of our member station WAMU.

PATRICK MADDEN, BYLINE: Homicides are up 35 percent over last year in D.C. At a press conference in Congress Heights yesterday - a poor neighborhood where murders have nearly doubled this year - Mayor Muriel Bowser admitted that authorities are scrambling.

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MURIEL BOWSER: I know that people want answers. Why is this happening? Why now? Who's responsible? What's responsible? And here's the truth - there is no easy answer.

MADDEN: The mayor announced a $15 million plan to combat the violence. It would toughen penalties and help fund a surge of police officers. It would also let authorities conduct unannounced searches of the homes of people who are on parole or probation for violent crime. The mayor says this tough-on-crime approach isn't about locking more people up.

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BOWSER: We're not here to talk about arresting black men but how we can save their lives.

MADDEN: But the press conference didn't go according to script. When the mayor announced plans to put more officers on the streets, at least a dozen audience members from the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in protest.

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CROWD: Who do you serve? Who do you protect? Who do you serve?

MADDEN: The interruptions continued for the rest of the mayor's speech. Eugene Puryear, one of the organizers behind the protest, says more police are not the answer.

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EUGENE PURYEAR: This expansion of police powers is not based on facts. The expansion of tougher penalties is - goes against the proven facts and the research on mass incarceration that tougher penalties don't do anything.

MADDEN: But as people look for answers and debate solutions, the violence in D.C. continues. Just a few hours after the mayor made her proposal, police announced another shooting across town. For NPR News in Washington, I'm Patrick Madden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.