Mayors have many responsibilities as heads of city government, but among the most crucial are ensuring public safety and overseeing a functioning public-education system. Like many failed mayors in Democratic cities in the U.S., Washington, D.C.’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, has been a dismal failure at both.
Last week, Mohammad Anwar, a 66-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who worked as a driver for UberEats, was violently carjacked and killed by two teenage girls in D.C. The girls allegedly used a taser gun on Anwar, then drove off in his car with Anwar partially hanging out of it, crashed, and killed Anwar. In video of the carjacking, you can hear and see one of the perpetrators’ sociopathic response to her actions: She ignores the dying body of her victim laying on the sidewalk nearby because she’s more concerned with going back to the stolen car to get her phone. After the girls’ arrest (they have been charged with armed carjacking and felony murder but will no doubt escape a tough sentence because they are juveniles), one of them told police she had gone to the Navy Yard neighborhood with the intention of carjacking someone.
Although the story made local news immediately, it wasn’t picked up by national news media until this past weekend. At about the same time, Mayor Bowser used her official Twitter account to release a short video and a tweet (since deleted) stating: “Auto theft is a crime of opportunity. Follow these steps to reduce the risk of your vehicle becoming a target. Remember the motto, #ProtectYourAuto.”
There are many ironies in this single tweet, not least of which is the fact that, since the Mayor had yet to comment on Anwar’s death publicly, the tweet seemed like a macabre kind of victim-blaming. The idea that carjackings are crimes of opportunity rather than the premeditated behavior of criminals is galling to the many D.C. residents who have seen violent crime spike in the past year.
Armed carjackings in particular have increased significantly: According to the Washington Post, “D.C. police say 46 carjackings occurred in the District in the first five weeks of this year, compared to eight by the same time in 2020. In all of last year, police reported 345 carjackings, a spike of 143 percent from the 142 that occurred in 2019.” Twenty-three juveniles, including some as young as 12 years old, have been arrested so far this year for armed carjacking. A few days after Anwar was killed, two armed 13-year-old boys carjacked two more people in D.C., which came after two other teenagers were arrested a few days earlier for even more carjackings.
Another irony? Bowser urges D.C. residents to “protect” their automobiles, but how can one do that in a city that makes it incredibly difficult to own a legal firearm for personal protection? And not just firearms: D.C. residents can’t even purchase pepper spray online and have it mailed to their homes thanks to a ridiculous regulation that prohibits its shipment to D.C. residents and requires them, if they can purchase it out of state to bring back to D.C., to register pepper spray with the police.
If the mayor wants D.C. residents (I have been one for more than 25 years) to take more responsibility for our own property and safety, perhaps she can loosen gun restrictions for law-abiding citizens; as in most staunchly Democratic cities, D.C.’s restrictive gun-ownership laws have not prevented criminals from getting hold of guns.
The mayor’s inability to deal with rising violent crime in the city is, ironically, linked to another one of her leadership failures. Asked by local media about the troubling increase in juvenile crime, law enforcement officials have repeatedly noted the fact that D.C.’s children are attending school virtually rather than in-person, and have been doing so for more than a year now, which has led to an increased number of unattended juveniles roaming D.C.’s streets and an increase in crimes committed by them.
Bowser and her schools chancellor, Lewis Ferebee, have repeatedly caved to the demands of the teachers union to keep schools virtual. What’s more, they have failed to offer any plans for returning to in-person learning now that case rates are declining, teachers have been given priority for vaccination, and the C.D.C. has changed its social-distancing guidelines to allow for more students to return to classrooms.
Asked by a Post reporter at a recent press conference about her plans for getting schools reopened to students in the fourth quarter, which starts in a few weeks, Bowser refused to answer. Evidently Bowser and Ferebee and DCPS teachers in thrall to their teachers union are running out the clock on the school year, with no regard to the educational and emotional cost to the students they have been entrusted to educate—and no recognition of the worrisome trend in juvenile crime.
And yet, Mayor Bowser chose to spend last week not tackling these crucial components of her job, but arguing for D.C. statehood before Congress. This past summer, during the George Floyd protests, Bowser made an effort to raise her national profile by using taxpayer money to paint a Black Lives Matter street mural in front of the White House (while ignoring roving mobs of looters who vandalized and stole from businesses all across the city over the course of several nights). Similarly, this current attempt to curry favor with Congress should be seen for the performative farce that it is. Just as the mayors of Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis discovered this summer, progressive posturing might get you flattering attention from fellow Democrats and the left-leaning press, but if your city is unsafe and unable to educate its children, your voters will eventually deliver a much tougher message to you via the ballot box: If you won’t do your job, we’ll find someone else who will.