D.C.’s mayor announced a new task force targeting criminals engaged in street crimes Wednesday.
The city has seen an alarming spike in street crimes and robberies in recent months, which has Mayor Muriel Bowser worried about the city's safety and image.
“There's just been concern that as you're walking down the street, you never know who's going to walk up behind you and rob you,” said Leah Daniels, owner of Hill’s Kitchen on Capitol Hill, which has hosted two recent meetings for neighbors worried about street crimes.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier said it’s more than groups stealing cellphones at Metro stops.
“This is a different trend, so we have to readjust and refocus our efforts now on this trend to drive this trend down before it becomes a bigger increase,” she said.
Lanier said there have been about 45 robberies since the first of the year -- not all involving innocent victims.
Bowser held a series of anti-crime events this week. Public safety is No. 1 on her agenda, she said.
Prosecutors said more than 300 robbery cases are pending in court, with more expected from the Robbery Intervention Task Force, which includes the Metropolitan Police Department, Metro Transit Police, the Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The task will focus on quickly finding patterns in robbery sprees.
The task force also works to get witnesses and victims who may be afraid to testify in cases.
D.C. saw a 5 percent increase in robberies in 2015, but robberies are down 22 percent compared to 2007, officials said.