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Statement Outlining Actions and Recommendations for the District of Columbia.

January 31, 1969

RESPONSIBILITY begins at home.

The District of Columbia is the Federal City, and the Federal Government cannot evade its share of responsibility for the conditions of life in the District.

For many who live here, those conditions have become intolerable. Violent crimes in the District have increased by almost three times in the last 8 years; only 2 days ago, the local newspapers carried a report that armed robberies had more than doubled in the past year alone.

This violence-raw, vicious violence, hurting most of all those who are poor and work hard--is the surface manifestation of far deeper troubles.

These troubles have been long building. In part, Washington today is reaping a whirlwind sown long since by rural poverty in the South, by failures in education, by racial prejudice, and by the sometimes explosive strains of rapid social readjustments.

Because its roots are deep and closely woven, crime in the District cannot be brought under control overnight. Neither can poverty be ended nor hatred eliminated nor despair overcome in a year. But we can begin.

In the 11 days since the new administration took office, I have asked the departments and agencies concerned to make an intensive study--as a matter of first priority--of actions that could be taken now toward curbing crime and improving the conditions of life in the city of Washington.

I wish I could report that we had produced a magic formula that would end crime and sweep away despair overnight. We have not. I have determined on a number of actions and recommendations which will provide a start. These include:

--a swift start on restoring those areas devastated nearly 10 months ago,

--a package of proposals that can at least help toward restoring the safety of life and property,

--a commitment to give the people of the District of Columbia the voice they legitimately should have in the public policies that affect their lives. Before detailing these measures I would like to make two points, both of which may help set the measures themselves in perspective.

I am pleased to report, first, that Mayor Washington and I, together with key members of our respective administrations, have established the basis for what I confidently expect will be the most effective cooperation yet achieved in the relations between the Federal and city governments.

The basic framework within which we both intend to operate is one of local initiative and responsibility, and the fullest possible Federal support--not only in terms of the necessary money, but also by involving the vast array of technical assistance available from within the Federal departments and agencies headquartered here.

Second, the great majority of these actions and recommendations are in the fields of crime control and the administration of justice. I recognize full well that crime and violence are only part of the complex interweave of problems the District faces, and that in the long run crime itself also requires much more far-reaching and subtle approaches. But the rapidly mounting urgency of the crime crisis in the District marks immediate, direct anticrime measures as the first-priority task.

There is another reason for this early and urgent emphasis. Crime in America today is both a primary local responsibility and a primary national concern. Here in the District, the Federal Government bears a special responsibility and has a unique opportunity. By searching for new ways of applying the resources of the Federal Government in the war against crime here, we may discover new ways of advancing the war against crime elsewhere.

These measures are by no means a comprehensive list. They represent things that are clearly needed and can be done now. Other crime control measures will follow, and also additional measures to meet the vast array of the District's other needs.

RESTORING THE DEVASTATED AREAS

Scarcely any of the shops and homes destroyed during the dots of last April have been rebuilt, and very few of those damaged have been made habitable or usable again. These rotting, boarded-up structures are a rebuke to us all and an oppressive, demoralizing environment for those who live in their shadow. They remind us again of the basic fact that the principal victims of violence are those in whose neighborhoods it occurs.

It is not enough merely to patch up what now exists; we must truly rebuild.

The people of the District--especially, of course, the people who live in these areas, and those who own the land--must decide the purposes for which these blocks will be used. The Federal Government can, however, pledge its full support for those Federal programs which can enable such redevelopment to proceed, and can further pledge the utmost Executive energy in responding to formal applications from the District.

We have already begun. Specifically, Secretary Romney informed me today that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved a $29.7 million neighborhood development plan for the Shaw area, including the major portion of the 7th Street neighborhood damaged during last April's riots. This plan, the result of several years of preparation, is an accomplishment of which this city can be proud.

It took Secretary Romney's Department less than 24 hours to approve this plan for the Shaw area, once it was approved by the City Council last Tuesday and submitted for Federal approval Wednesday evening. This unprecedented process illustrates the commitment of this administration to the meeting of the urgent needs of the Capital City.

Mayor Washington has indicated that he intends to seek similar assistance under the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 for rehabilitation of the two major areas of riot damage not covered in the Shaw plan--the areas along 14th Street and H Street. I can assure him that this administration will respond with the same sense of urgency to his requests for help in these areas.

He has promised me a tight but serious timetable under which the first construction in these areas would begin next fall.

While the city prepares for this construction, and decides what to do with the 14th and H Street areas, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will make available $I million in special interim assistance for improvements in some of the blighted areas. This morning, I watched the first cranes at work clearing rubble to make way for a temporary playground. The District has plans for swings, slides, and swimming pools where now there is charred rubble. Street lighting will be improved, roads and sidewalks repaired.

Under section 514 of the 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act, Mayor Washington has undertaken to provide one-third matching funds for this $ 1 million, and the District Government will take the initiative in deciding how this money will be spent. The limited assistance to be provided by the Federal Government under this interim program cannot by itself remake these areas. But it is a first step toward making them more livable, an earnest demonstration of our concern, and a first sign of hope.

In this connection, I can announce that the 1969 Inaugural Committee, through its chairman, Mr. J. Willard Marriott, has agreed to devote the net proceeds of the inaugural to the cost of providing playground equipment and other improvements for these parks and playground areas.

CRIME AND ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

A meaningful assault on crime requires action on a broad array of fronts. But in the midst of a crime crisis, immediate steps are needed to increase the effectiveness of the police and to make justice swifter and more certain.

Toward these ends and as a beginning, I have taken or will propose action in 12 major areas.

1. THE COURTS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

I am asking Congress to provide 10 more judges for the courts of the District of Columbia. I will ask later for additional judges as they become necessary upon the reorganization of the District of Columbia court system.

As an interim measure, I would hope that the existing visiting judges program would be expanded in the District. The Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Circuit here has diligently sought the services of visiting judges. I will encourage and aid him in his effort to obtain the services of more judges.

To improve the administration of justice in the District, I have directed the Attorney General to consult with the bench, the bar, and the various interested groups, to assist in the drafting of appropriate legislation providing for a reorganization and restructuring of our present court system toward the eventual goal of creating one local court of general, civil, criminal, and juvenile jurisdiction for the District of Columbia. It is consistent with my support for home rule to urge the creation of a local court system similar to that of the States and other large municipalities.

To perform with full effectiveness, a modern court needs modern computer and management techniques. I have asked the Attorney General to offer his Department's assistance to the study groups in the District that are presently seeking to apply such techniques in the court system.

I have asked the Attorney General to submit specific recommendations for such additional courthouse personnel, including United States Marshals, court clerks, probation officers, law clerks, and bailiffs, as are necessary to support not only the present judges but the additional judges that will be requested.

2. UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE

The chronic understaffing of the prosecutor's office has long hampered the efficient administration of justice in the District. It is widely recognized that a ratio of at least two prosecutors for each judge is needed. To achieve that goal, 20 new assistant U.S. attorneys are required immediately. With the creation of 10 additional judgeships and the contemplated court reorganization, another 20 prosecutors will be required. Consequently I am recommending the authorization of 40 more assistant U.S. attorneys.

A comprehensive reorganization of the Office of the U.S. Attorney is imperative. This should include a restructuring of the Office to provide for two-man prosecutor teams in important cases; the development of specialized functions for technical cases, such as frauds and other economic crimes; and the creation of a special "violent crimes unit" to handle such crimes as armed bank robberies on a priority basis, as is presently being tried experimentally.

In addition, greater emphasis is needed on developing policy guidelines and training programs. On January 14, $120,000 was awarded by the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice for a special study committee. Included in its study is an examination of the prosecutor's office, with a view toward recommending improvements in its operation. I strongly support this study and have instructed the Attorney General to make available the resources of the Department of Justice to assist the committee and to facilitate reorganization found desirable.

In addition, I will seek authorization for the hiring of law clerks and sufficient other personnel for the proper staffing of the U.S. Attorney's Office and for the hiring and use of trained investigators, who are necessary to the effective functioning of the prosecutor's office.

3. COURTHOUSE FACILITIES

The local courts already are overflowing the existing Court of General Sessions buildings. Judges are sitting in three different buildings, and some in temporary courtrooms. With the creation of additional judges and the eventual transfer of greatly expanded jurisdiction to the local courts, a new courthouse complex becomes a pressing necessity. One hundred thousand dollars has already been utilized for planning for a new courthouse and $3.5 million has been appropriated for site selection. But we must have these facilities now. Consequently, I am vigorously endorsing the requests presently pending before the Congress for $1,240,000 to be used to complete acquisition and for additional planning. The administration will fully support the Mayor in such additional requests as are needed to speed the building program. Meanwhile, I have instructed the General Services Administration to assist in providing temporary facilities.

4. BAIL REFORM AND THE BAIL AGENCY

Problems arising out of the operation of the Bail Reform Act of 1966 are now being considered by the Congress. But substantial changes in this area are needed quickly. Increasing numbers of crimes are being committed by persons already indicted for earlier crimes, but free on pretrial release. Many are now being arrested two, three, even seven times for new offenses while awaiting trials. This requires that a new provision be made in the law, whereby dangerous hard-core recidivists could be held in temporary pretrial detention when they have been charged with crimes and when their continued pretrial release presents a clear danger to the community.

Additionally, crimes committed by persons on pretrial release should be made subject to increased penalties.

Insufficient staffing of the Bail Agency is one of the contributors to crime by those on pretrial release. I support immediate lifting of the ceiling that now constricts the Agency's funding. I will seek appropriations for an initial expansion of the Agency from 13 to 35 permanent positions. If the pretrial release system is to protect the rights of the community, the Agency must have the capacity for adequate investigation and supervision.

5. THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

As the local government is painfully aware, the existing facilities and programs of the Department of Corrections are woefully inadequate. On January 16, 1969, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons submitted a comprehensive report to Mayor Washington identifying the deficiencies and making a number of recommendations. I join with the Mayor in urging immediate implementation of those recommendations, and I will offer whatever Federal assistance is possible in doing so.

All who have studied the problem agree that far-reaching changes are needed in the penal facilities and programs serving the District. I will press vigorously for accomplishment of the needed reforms.

6. OFFICE OF PUBLIC DEFENDER

The recent bail reform hearings before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights have emphasized the important contributions skilled defense counsel can make toward expediting criminal trials.

Too often, inexperienced lawyers who are appointed to represent indigent defendants complicate and delay the trial process by their unfamiliarity with the law and criminal practice. Experience has shown that professional public defenders, on the other hand, not only better safeguard the rights of defendants, but also speed the process of justice. The Legal Aid Agency in the District is a pilot project which has given every indication of great success if properly supported. I believe the time has come to convert this project into a full-fledged public defender program. To make this project possible, I will support the Legal Aid Agency's 1970 budget request for $700, 000 to allow an increase in its staff from 22 to 34 attorneys and to assume responsibility for a successful project in offender rehabilitation. This would allow it to become a full-fledged public defender's office with the capacity to represent almost half of the indigent adult and juvenile defendants in the District.

7. THE METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT

There is no deterrent to crime quite so effective as the public presence of policemen. Several immediate steps are needed to bolster and improve the local police force in the District of Columbia.

The first step is more effective recruitment. Despite diligent recruitment efforts, the police force has hundreds of unfilled vacancies. I have pledged to the Mayor the assistance and full support of this administration to improve the recruitment process. I will sponsor the establishment of a procedure by which the District can draw upon the experience of other cities. Imaginative and innovative approaches may be necessary.

But even bringing the Department up to its presently authorized strength will not secure adequate public protection in these troubled times. Consequently, I am recommending to the Mayor that he request authorization of an additional 1,000 police officers for the District, and I will support such a request.

I endorse the Mayor's efforts and those of the Police Department to reorganize the structure of the Department, so as to consolidate functions, reduce duplication, and free additional police officers for patrol and enforcement duties. I offer the assistance of the Federal Government in this effort.

I urge our local police officials to give a high priority to planning and development, making use of the increased Federal funds now available for the introduction of new law enforcement techniques.

The Police Department also needs the increased assistance of competent legal advisers in this era of ever more complicated criminal law and procedures. I laud the Mayor for his recent appointment to the Police Department of a legal adviser. However, with the increased burdens on the Department it seems advisable to increase the staff and capability of such an office. Not only do the police need to be properly advised as to the performance of their duties, but it is also necessary for the Police Department to be assured of the Government's support of an interest in the officer's performance of his individual duties.

8. DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC SAFETY

The potential of this office is great. It is presently vacant. The Mayor informs me that he is diligently searching for the right man to fill the job. I have offered the Mayor this administration's resources to assist him in selecting the best possible Director.

9. CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

Increased citizen involvement is essential to any program of crime control and prevention; it is also in keeping with the American tradition. I strongly support the Mayor in his plan to appoint a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee patterned after similar successful programs in other large cities. It is important that the Council be properly staffed. This could be done with help from the recently created Criminal Justice Planning Office and funded under the Law Enforcement Assistance Act, which provides financial support of up to 90 percent for such planning activity involving citizen participation. Policy making and planning must have citizen participation and coordination if they are to produce programs that are widely acceptable to the community. I pledge the Mayor the support and assistance of the Federal Government in this area.

10. NARCOTICS

Although the narcotics traffic in the District of Columbia is apparently not dominated by organized crime, it has become an acute and growing problem. It is a direct cause of much of the District's crime, by driving the narcotic user to commit crime to support his "habit." Many armed robberies, assaults, and bank holdups are directly related to narcotics use.

Consequently, I have instructed the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to increase significantly its role in the District of Columbia in enforcing the narcotic and dangerous drug laws. The Bureau has assured me that they will also increase their cooperation with the Metropolitan Police Department in enforcement, training, and in making available additional laboratory facilities and expert and technical assistance.

I have also directed the Bureau and the Department of Justice to seek more effective application of the civil commitment provisions of the Narcotics Rehabilitation Act of 1966 which has not yet been widely used.

11. JUVENILE CRIME

In recent years the median age of those charged with crime has been ominously dropping. The National Commission on Violence warned this month: "The key to much of the violence in our society seems to lie with the young. Our youth account for an ever-increasing percentage of crime, greater than their increasing percentage of the population .... It may be here, with tomorrow's generation, that much of the emphasis of our studies and the national response should lie."

I strongly support the city government's efforts to draft a new Juvenile Code, and I am making available technical assistance by Federal authorities. The Department of Justice is already cooperating with the Corporation Counsel and other local officials on the project.

Under the proposed court reorganization, the now isolated and undernourished Juvenile Court would be brought into the new District of Columbia court of general jurisdiction. Thus juveniles would have the advantage of the comprehensive facilities of the new court, including family services and probation assistance.

The pilot Group Home Rehabilitation project, in which juveniles enjoy retention of community ties, close adult supervision, and peer-group controls, gives every appearance of success. Expansion of the project as a substitute for institutionalization and as a possible supplement to probation is desirable. I support the Mayor in his request for increased funding and authorization for such facilities.

The lack of sufficient psychiatric services for the youthful disturbed is a serious obstacle to crime prevention. Young minds gone astray must be helped while still malleable. I will assist the Mayor in his forthcoming request for a well-staffed psychiatric care residential facility for adolescent delinquents.

I also urge that the local government, together with local school officials, prepare a plan to provide for the education of those schoolchildren whose disciplinary and truant absence from schools for long periods now causes them to reach adulthood educationally stunted. A substitute educational program must be devised for them, test they become a burden to themselves and the community.

12. NEW ATTENTION TO THE DISTRICT

The Attorney General has created a new post within the Justice Department, that of Associate Deputy Attorney General for the Administration of Criminal Justice, with one of the new official's special and continuing responsibilities, that of helping improve the administration of justice in the District of Columbia. He has named to the post Mr. Donald Santarelli, a widely experienced expert on the special problems of crime control in the District. One of Mr. Santarelli's functions will be to evaluate and help implement new ideas for more effective anticrime measures in the District.

HOME RULE AND DISTRICT REPRESENTATION

For more than 20 years I have supported home rule for the District of Columbia. I continue to support home rule, but I consider the timing of that effort the key, as is proven by its past history of failure. For the present, I will seek within the present system to strengthen the role of the local government in the solution of local problems.

Beyond this, I will press for congressional representation for the District. In accordance both with my own conviction and with the platform pledge of my party, I will support a constitutional amendment to give the 850,000 people of the District at last a voting representative in Congress.

Adding an amendment to our Constitution, however, is a long and difficult process. As an interim measure, I will press this year for legislation that would give the District a nonvoting delegate. The District is a Federal city, but it should not be a Federal colony. Nearly 200 years ago, the people of America confronted the question of taxation without representation. It was not acceptable then; it hardly is justifiable today.

I cannot overemphasize the fact that these reforms are not a panacea. They are a beginning. Some will show modest results quickly; others may show greater results over a longer period of time. More must be done. But as the city moves to modernize its own government, as improved Federal cooperation provides the support so desperately needed, as the citizens of Washington develop a greater awareness of ways in which citizen action can make their city safer and more livable, as progress is made in tackling the stubborn social problems that have sapped the spirit of so many of the District's people, I am confident that together we can make measurable progress toward reviving the spirit and restoring the safety of the Nation's Capital, and making it once again what it ought to be.' a proud, glorious city, cherished by every American as part of his heritage and cherished by those who live here as a place of beauty, neighborliness, and decency.

Note: On Friday morning, January 31, 1969, the President joined Mayor Walter E. Washington and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development George Romney in a ceremony at 7th and T Streets, NW., in Washington. The ceremony marked the beginning of work to clear the site of rubble remaining from the civil disorders of April 1968 in order to build a playground area.

Richard Nixon, Statement Outlining Actions and Recommendations for the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239116

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