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January 19, 2005

Fun with Numbers

Dear Statisticians:

On January 15, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a stunning article about the games that that city’s police department plays with crime reports. The paper wrote about officers who "quietly invoked a process that arbitrarily discounted hundreds or more crime reports a year. Instead of writing an ‘incident report’ that triggers further investigation and gets counted in the city’s crime totals, the officers opted for a ‘Crime Memo Data Sheet’ that generally languishes in a file drawer of a district station. It is a mechanism secret enough that a Police Board member who was tipped off about it tried to find it and came away convinced it didn’t exist." (

For years, there have been anecdotal stories and rumors about similar games being played with crime statistics in DC. People have said that they couldn’t locate police reports on crimes that they had been victims of, or that the crimes had been minimized and recategorized as much less serious crimes, misdemeanors when they were actually felonies, nonviolent when they were actually violent, the amount of damage or stolen items reduced. There has been speculation that the large drop in reported crimes at several "hot spots" has been just that -- a drop in crimes that were reported rather than in crimes that were committed. But, just as in St. Louis, whatever casual investigations have been done of these suspicions have led nowhere.

As Dorothy reports below, Mayor Williams has appointed Edward Reisken to the position of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, a position that has been vacant for much of the past year since Margret Kellems resigned. There is room for doubt about whether Reisken has the authority or, indeed, the mandate from the mayor to supervise the much older, more seasoned, more experienced agency heads whose boss he has become. But if he has been appointed to do the job, this is one area in which he could quickly, though not easily, make his mark. Can he take on the crime statistics and either prove that they are accurately reported or uncover and stop the kind of systematic underreporting of crime that goes on in St. Louis?

Gary Imhoff


Kwame Brown’s Campaign Money
Jim Spring,

The Washington Post account of Kwame Brown’s campaign spending ( is cause for concern. Brown defined himself as a grassroots reformer and made a point to say how he was taking on a well-funded and less-than-ethical incumbent, Harold Brazil. Now we learn that Brown, too, has a fuzzy concept of ethics. Four more years. . . .

The story begins with Brown paying out tens of thousands of dollars to a company that is owned by his “volunteer” campaign manager, an old college buddy. The company was established during the Brown campaign and has only had one client, Kwame Brown. All payments to the company were made after Brown won the primary and was a shoo-in for the general election. And if that doesn’t have you wondering, what about this: the firm redirected some of its campaign earnings to Brown’s brother and father as "consultants."

So I guess it makes perfect sense that Brown was appointed to the DC Council Committee on Economic Development. His campaign helped to develop the economics of his family and a friend pretty darn good. Let’s hope the DC voters who put him in office experience the same trickle-down effect.


Good Morning America
Bryce A. Suderow,

You early risers are in for a treat tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Good Morning America is devoting part of its 7-10 a.m. Inauguration Day program to the Library of Congress. They were at the Library yesterday and again today in the afternoon. I was at the Library today while ABC News was filming LOC director James Billington as he showed Charlie Gibson how to operate the revolving belt that brings books up to the loan desk from downstairs. It was probably the longest amount of time Billington has spent behind the loan desk since he became director fifteen years ago. Just in case Billington got it wrong, there were half a dozen dressed up reference librarians ready to help him out.

I thought about grabbing Charlie and his camera crew and showing him a real life story that ABC should have covered. Twenty feet away from the loan desk is the Xerox room where half the machines were broken. This is the result of a contract that Billington approved four years ago. Until then the Library’s Photo Duplication Service ran the machines at a profit. Unfortunately, a high level bureaucrat in Photo Dup named Kevin Flood approved a new contract whereby the company supplying the copiers also provided on-site repair people. The result: the copier repair service declined and the cost of the copies doubled from ten to twenty cents to pay their salaries.

I also considered hijacking Charlie and showing him that under Billington morale and professionalism have declined so radically that today 75 percent of the staff was gone by the time Gibson began filming. The staff at the loan desk was in disarray. Members kept asking where the supervisor was. "Where’s Ralph? Has anyone seen Ralph?" It turned out that he hadn’t come in. Things got so bad that desk attendants from the Adams building had to be sent over to cover the desk for the filming. The reference staff was shorthanded too. I met a reference librarian who was supposed to be on-leave all this week. They frantically brought her in tonight. But I concluded that nobody does investigative reports anymore. As we all know, investigative reporting died with the dinosaurs shortly after Reagan was elected.


Dorothy Brizill,

Today, Mayor Williams appointed Edward D. Reiskin as Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice; Stanley Jackson as Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; Stephen M. Green as Director of Development in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; Patrick J. Canavan as Acting Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; and Jalal “Jay” Greene as Acting Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development. Their resumes are available at

Edward Reiskin came to DC from Oakland, California, fourteen months ago with City Administrator Robert Bobb as his chief of staff. The police department, fire department, Emergency Medical Services, Medical Examiner, and Emergency Management Agency will all report to him, and he will be the city’s principal liaison with federal and regional law enforcement agencies. He has no background in public safety or justice issues except for working on the “Hot Spots” initiative headed by Bobb, but his appointment to the position over more experienced candidates signifies Bobb’s influence in the administration.

Stephen Green’s appointment is little more than a slight change in title; since February 2002 he has been the mayor’s special assistant for economic planning and development, and neither he nor the mayor was able to explain how his duties or powers will differ in the new position. Green has a reputation of having been totally contemptuous of and riding roughshod over neighborhoods and community leaders; in his new position he will report to Stanley Jackson, who has in the past had a healthy respect for and good working relationships with neighborhood and citizen groups. It will be interesting to see whether Green’s appointment to this position is meant to temper his contentious work style or to undermine Jackson’s cooperative style.

Patrick Canavan has been appointed to head DCRA, one of the most dysfunctional departments in city government, which has resisted repeated attempts at reform. It would challenge the most skilled administrator; however, Canavan has little management experience. He is a clinical psychologist who worked in the forensic division of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital before Mayor Williams appointed him to spearhead the city’s War on Rats in 1999. (Williams and Canavan cited the War on Rats as a major success that show his managerial ability; but if the city government won the War on Rats, somebody forgot to tell the rats.) His latest position, since 2002, was as Director of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Services program, in which he supervised a staff of eight ward coordinators. DCRA’s proposed staffing level for FY2005 is 372.


Macho Abroad, Chicken at Home
Len Sullivan,

I am appalled by the utter disregard of DC’s many police authorities for DC’s dangerous traffic problems. Like Tractor Man in the pool last year, or Suicide Man on Wilson Bridge a few years ago, taking several hours to defuse Red Van Wacko on the Avenue on Tuesday makes DC authorities look like cowardly idiots. Give me a water cannon, several fire trucks, a few laden dump trunks (for shields) and a stun grenade for surprise, and that situation could have been ended in thirty minutes. There comes a point where some limited risk to a few is better than massive inconvenience to so many.

But perhaps most serious, it demonstrates how easy it would be to set the stage for a real terrorist action. Having a suspicious, "worst case" mind, I was about 50 percent sure that Red Van Wacko was just preparing the scene for Real Savvy Terrorist, perhaps with only a fake dirty bomb. The evacuation potential of the city at rush hour must have been cut by 80 percent, and the vulnerability of those commuters increased several fold. If you add the possibility that Red Van Wacko’s cousin simultaneously becomes White Powder Dropper on Metro Center Red and Blue Line platforms, the nation’s capital city could experience life-threatening gridlock, panic, and humiliation.

This whole approach reminds me of a Congress that refused to legislate the securing of airliner cockpits after a (very early) terrorist success, and then goes to war when a Determined Someone takes advantage (years later) of our self-imposed vulnerability. How can we be so macho abroad, and so chicken at home? This gets a perfect score on my handheld Stupidity Meter.


Memorial Celebration for Dr. James Forman
Jo-Ena Bennett,

From Chaka Forman:

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken”: A Memorial Celebration of Life for James Forman, will be held on Saturday, February 5, at People’s Congregational Church, 4704 13th Street, NW. From noon to 3:00 p.m., gather and be together. The church agreed to open the doors early because many folks, especially the SNCC veterans, expressed a desire to use this as a chance to be together. From 3:00 to 5:30 p.m., Memorial Celebration.

Also, some people have asked about making donations in my dad’s honor. We are establishing a James Forman Scholarship Fund, some or all of which we hope to use to create a scholarship at his alma mater Roosevelt University in Chicago. Anyone interested in making a donation or contribution should make the check out to Chaka Forman, and send it to: Chaka Forman, 2554 Lincoln Blvd. #729, Venice CA 90291. Please put “Forman Scholarship” on the subject line.


Helping Local Video Producers
Phil Shapiro,

When the low-cost Mac Mini was introduced last week by Apple, I was so happy at the expanded opportunities this computer will bring to new video producers -- especially to video producers who produce community-themed videos -- videos that celebrate the strengths of our community. Since Apple has done it’s part, I’d like to do my own part to further this goal. I have a access to a bunch of USB keyboards and can deliver a no-cost USB keyboard to any DC-area video producer who buys a Mac Mini. I can also volunteer time to spend an hour or two orienting you to the iMovie video editing software that comes with the Mac Mini. All I ask is that you tell me ahead of time what community supportive videos you’d like to be making -- be they documentary, profiles of community members, profiles of community organizations, oral histories, etc. The Mac Mini plugs into any existing VGA monitor -- the kind used on Windows computers. (A 17-inch or larger monitors works much better than a 15-inch monitor.) You also need to find (or purchase) a USB mouse to use a Mac Mini. These cost about $15 (or less) to purchase.

On a related note, a new interactive national web site recently launched to unite digital divide activists. I’ve been beta-testing this site and it’s looking strong. This site is being funded by three foundations, so it’ll be around for a while. The site is at Thanks for passing along word about this site to people you know who might be interested in it. The phrase “digital divide” is defined very broadly on this site to include any efforts to expand access to technology, technology training, access to education, access to information, and the like. For those who might be interested, my profile on the DDN site is at


January 2005 InTowner
Peter Wolff,

This is to advise that the January 2005 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular "Scenes from the Past" feature. Also included are all current classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to March 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on February 11 (the 2nd Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Harris Teeter/Citadel Project Roils Reed-Cooke Community — Many Question Feasibility”; 2) “Plans for Recreational Green Space in Dupont East Focus of Intense Neighborhood Scrutiny”; 3) “Imploded But Not Forgotten — Even Mourned by Some.”



Author Talk, January 25
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, January 25, 7:00 p.m., Takoma Park Neighborhood Library, 416 Cedar Street, NW. Author Carolyn Parkhurst will discuss her book Dogs of Babel. Public contact: 576-7252.


National Building Museum Construction Tour, January 29
Brie Hensold,

Saturday, January 29, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Lofts 14 Two creates loft-style condominiums in a historic 1920’s automobile showroom. Penny Karas with Metropolis Development will lead a tour of this project, part of a number of new residential projects under construction in Washington, DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood. Open only to Museum members, $15. Prepaid registration must be received by January 24.


Cleveland Park Citizens Association Meeting, February 5
George Idelson,

A world-class public school system for DC — what will it take? To achieve the improved public school system we all want will take creative collaboration and support by all parts of our city government and citizens. We are honored to have three of the key players in school policy and governance at our February 5 meeting in a constructive discussion of questions such as: What are the obstacles to progress? What is working? What are the models we can learn from? What is the policy agenda for the foreseeable future? And how can we, as citizens, help? This unique forum, open to all, should attract interest from other parts of the community. So come early, and bring your best questions. Speakers: Dr. Clifford B. Janey, DC Superintendent of Schools; Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 councilmember and chair, Education Committee; Victor Reinoso, Ward 3-4 School Board member. Saturday, February 5, 10:15 a.m., Cleveland Park Library, Connecticut Avenue and Newark Street, NW. Cleveland Park Citizens Association, PO Box 11444, Washington, DC 20008, 362-4279;


Washington Storytellers Theater, February 8, 19
Brad Hills,

Tuesday, February 8, 8:00 p.m. Washington Storytellers Theater presents the SpeakEasy Open Mic, Old Dogs and New Tricks: Stories About Getting Older, at HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues, 1610 14th Street, NW (between Corcoran and Q Streets). Ticket price $5 (corkage: $3 per person). Purchase at the door (doors open at 7:30 p.m.). Street parking. Metro: Red Line (Dupont) or Green Line (U Street/Cardoza). On the first of each month, we will begin taking sign-ups for that month’s Open Mic. Call the WST Office to reserve a space. You’re not getting older . . . you’re getting better! Oh, really! Nice try, but I’m still getting older. And so are we all. Whether it’s becoming a teen, going to college, turning thirty and leaving your bright future behind or collecting that first social security check, it happens to us all. Join Featured Storytellers Susan Gordon, Bill Mayhew and Eva Salvetti as we celebrate the ages we are and the ages we will be.

Saturday, February 19, 8:00 p.m. Judith Black: Retiring the Champ, at The City Museum of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW. Ticket price $15 (Senior, Student and Group Discount Rates Available). Purchase at the door or in advance by calling 301-891-1129 or on-line at Street or garage parking nearby (check web site for details). Metro: Red line (Chinatown), Green/Yellow (Mt. Vernon or Chinatown), Blue/Orange (Metro Center). The delightful and moving story of Trina -- known also as "the little Pit Bull" – and her battle with Alzheimer’s. The eldest child of immigrants, teacher, and union organizer in the New York City schools, Trina, at 83, was still throwing punches. With moments of laughter and redemption, this is a story about coaching a feisty prizewinner through her last big bout and her son and caretaker’s journey from angry boy to soulful adult. "Black has culled the minefields of childhood and elevated them through her storytelling to a level of universal experience that is not only painful and poignant, but gut-wrenchingly hilarious." The Boston Globe.



The City’s Cats and Dogs are Waiting — Adopt!
Pat Yates,

The DC Animal Shelter is full to the brim with wonderful cats and dogs that need loving arms, warm laps and good homes. Many are strays that people have tossed out or abandoned; others have been surrendered to the shelter for one reason or another. (It’s that time of year when many people who got pets for Christmas are deciding that they really didn’t want pets.)

See the terrific city animals on and spread the word. (We adopt to the entire metro area.) The faster we can move these wonderful animals to good homes, the more room there will be for others who have been abandoned or given up.


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