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Letter on Law Enforcement in the District of Columbia.

January 31, 1967

Dear Mr. Bailer:

The letter from the Washington Clearing House Association is a welcome indication that responsible groups in the community share my concern about the crime situation in the District of Columbia.

As I said in my message to Congress on January 25, transmitting the budget for the District, it is apparent that the efforts we have taken up to now to deal with this problem are not adequate. That is not to say that they are not considerable and have not been useful. The increase in police salaries has materially reduced the resignations of experienced officers and helped with the recruitment of new ones. Grants to the Police Department under the Law Enforcement Assistance Act have provided the police with more mobility, better communications and a variety of other technical aids. Creation of the Roving Tactical Force has helped to hold down street crimes. Concentrated efforts, assisted by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Office of Economic Opportunity, have succeeded in reducing the number of juvenile crimes for the year ending last July 1 below the previous year for the first time in many years. Finally, the Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia which I appointed has provided a program for the coordinated attack on crime that we so badly needed.

Nevertheless, we must do more. As you correctly point out, it will be expensive, both for the short-range measures and for the longer-range progress on which our ultimate success depends. My budget message to the Congress of January 25 indicates the magnitude of those costs, and includes my recommendations for an increase in the Federal payment, as you suggest.

As soon as funds are available, some things can be done. For example, I propose a further increase in police salaries to expedite the efforts of the police to secure their full quota of men, and to get even better men in the process. We can provide additional civilians to man new police facilities and to relieve police from clerical and other civilian type duties. We can complete the program of expansion and modernization of the police communication system. We can further increase police mobility with additional automobiles.

In addition, my budget message proposes major increases in funds for other programs, both in areas such as education where improvements are essential to any ultimate success, and in projects that have an immediate impact. The message recommends an increase in the number of Roving Leaders to work with youth gangs and delinquency-prone juveniles. It proposes additional staff for the Juvenile Court, and general strengthening of court services. The budget also includes funds to provide the physical facilities that the District police and correctional agencies so badly need. Planning funds are included for a modern detention and diagnostic facilities to replace the antiquated D.C. Jail and the inadequate and overcrowded Receiving Home. Construction funds are included to build a new police training facility at Blue Plains.

In some areas, legislation is necessary. I am preparing and will shortly transmit to the Congress my recommendations for a number of changes in criminal law and criminal procedure that will strengthen both the police and the general administration of criminal justice in the District. I am also expecting to have recommendations from the District Judicial Council on the needs of the courts, which are critical. They will be the basis for further legislative proposals in that area.

Those improvements that can be made without either appropriations or legislation are being made. Immediately following the first series of recommendations by the D.C. Crime Commission regarding the Police Department, the Commissioners and the Department took action. I have made it clear that I expect action on these recommendations, and on similar recommendations now available from the Commission regarding other parts of the District government, to be a matter of the highest priority.

One essential element cannot be supplied by government--the cooperation of the community, with the police and in support of the appropriations and other measures which are necessary for an effective anti-crime program. I shall be counting on the support of the Clearing House Association, and I hope that your example will rally others to the same position you have taken.



[Mr. Robert C. Baker, Chairman, The Washington, D.C., Clearing House Association, 613 15th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005]

Note: A full page advertisement, containing a facsimile reproduction of the letter to the President from the Washington Clearing House Association, dated January 25, 1967, was published in Washington newspapers on January 31.

For the President's message to Congress on January 25 transmitting the District of Columbia budget, see Item 15.

For a statement by the President in response to the report of the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia, see 1966 volume, this series, Book II, Item 656.

The President's special message on crime was transmitted to Congress on February 6, 1967 (see Items 35, 36).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter on Law Enforcement in the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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