There are times when K. Denise Rucker Krepp wonders if she is the only elected Democrat in Washington, D.C., who cares that violent criminals are making the city unsafe.
Krepp, an advisory neighborhood commissioner representing some 2,500 Capitol Hill residents, has been fighting for tougher prosecution of criminals for nearly a decade. She is unpaid, has no staff, and is armed with little more than a Twitter account. But as the city’s Democratic leaders push for a controversial revision of the criminal code – reducing sentences and giving murderers and rapists an opportunity for early release – she has tirelessly fought the measure, calling attention to the city’s violent crime problem and demanding accountability from those in power.
“We’re in the middle of a crime surge,” Krepp told Fox News in an interview. “I’ve had in the past year: Two murders, multiple armed carjackings, stabbings, shootings, and now home invasion. Not good, not good at all. And by the way, armed carjacking in front of my house. That really pissed me off.”
The home invasion happened Thursday, when police said four armed suspects broke into a residence in Krepp’s Ward and made off with nearly $20,000 in stolen property. The thieves allegedly presented themselves as FBI agents and forced their way in with a crowbar, the Metropolitan Police Department said.
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“Good morning DC Council. The Revised Criminal Code which you passed last month enables the burglars who bound up my residents this morning to be released early from prison,” Krepp tweeted Thursday. “You call the bill progress. I call it a failure.”
Last month, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to adopt a sweeping overhaul of the city’s criminal code. Among the proposed reforms were reduced maximum sentences, the elimination of nearly all mandatory minimum sentences, and expanded rights to jury trials by those accused of misdemeanors.
Criminal justice reform advocates say the bill is necessary to modernize the law, which was written in 1901, and ensure that punishments are proportionate to the crimes being committed.
“Many members of Congress in 1901 were former slave holders. When we have a criminal code like that, it welcomes bias,” Councilman Charles Allen said in October. “We have a disproportionate, outdated hot mess of a criminal code right now.” As head of the District’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, Allen was an architect of the legislation and a driving force behind its passage.
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But opponents have sounded the alarm on provisions that would allow D.C. inmates to ask for early release 20 years into their sentence, even those accused of violent crimes like murder or sexual assault. Police Chief Robert Contee has publicly raised concerns over reduced penalties for gun crimes. And U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves’s office, which is responsible for prosecuting crimes in the District, said in October that while reform was “sorely needed,” they “still have concerns with multiple aspects of this bill and believe that some provisions, while well-intentioned, could undermine community safety and impede the administration of justice in our courts.”
Krepp, a former federal agency chief counsel, believes the proposed law will deprive prosecutors of the tools they need to fight crime.
“I really don’t understand why they just seem to be so gung ho on helping individuals who committed rape, and murder, and armed carjacking, stabbing, shootings, robberies, whatever,” she told Fox News. “It’s truly puzzling to me.”
The bill is currently in the hands of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has said she is “disappointed with several provisions.” Her office did not respond to a request for comment on whether she will sign the bill, veto it, or permit it to become law without her signature.
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If the revised code makes it past the mayor’s desk, it will next head to Congress, where federal lawmakers will have 60 days to review it. Within that period, Congress may enact a joint resolution disapproving the Council’s Act. If President Biden approves the resolution, the act will be prevented from becoming law.
Krepp has asked Congress to do this. On Dec. 12, she wrote to congressional leaders pleading with them to reject the revised code, writing that it would “hurt victims of violent crime.”
“I asked the DC Council to amend the Revised Criminal Code Act because it creates a new right for convicted rapists – the right to petition for early release. They said no so I’ve asked Congress to disapprove it,” she tweeted on Wednesday.
Browse Krepp’s official ANC account and you will find hundreds of such posts condemning violent crimes and urging action from Democratic officials who run the city. “Good morning D.C.,” she tweeted Saturday morning. “We’re ending the week w/ 464 carjackings … and [U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves] doesn’t know how many carjacking cases his office prosecuted this year, last year, or in the past 10 years.”
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Though at times she seems like the lone tough-on-crime Democrat in a city turning against police, Krepp is not desperate. She is determined. A former Coast Guard officer and Obama administration political appointee, Krepp is no stranger to standing up against powerful foes.
In 2011, while serving as Chief Counsel for the U.S. Maritime Administration, Krepp requested an Inspector General (IG) investigation into a “credible report” of multiple sexual assaults being covered up by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, one of five federal service academies. She says that instead of completing an investigation, her superiors accused her of being disloyal to the Obama administration and forced her to resign, while sexual assaults continued at the school.
Now, as an “itty bitty locally elected official,” Krepp continues to be a fierce advocate for victims. She sued the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution data in 2016 after her neighbor was assaulted by a serial rapist, demanding to know how many rapes in her ward were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office each year.
As violent crime increased over the years, Krepp submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for additional prosecution data in 2021, only to find that the U.S. attorney did not have that data readily available. Ever persistent, when U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves briefed Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B at a public meeting on March 8, 2022, Krepp confronted him and demanded to know how many crimes his office has prosecuted. He was unable to answer, telling her that his office uses “antiquated” case management systems and did not have that data “on demand.”
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In response, she has hammered away at the U.S. attorney on Twitter and sent multiple letters to lawmakers requesting that Congress instruct his office to start tracking crimes prosecuted in D.C. each year, making this information available to the public.
The U.S. attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I have found over eight years that it’s abnormal to do what I’m doing, which is being very public and expressing frustration at the situation,” Krepp told Fox News.
So far, D.C. leaders have mostly ignored her efforts opposing the revised criminal code. “If they paid attention, and they acknowledged what I was doing, then they’d have to acknowledge that there’s a crime problem, and they don’t want to do that. If you don’t ask the questions I’m asking, then you can say, everything’s great,” Krepp says.
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D.C. officials have acknowledged that city residents feel unsafe, but they’ve pointed to data that shows crime has fallen in recent months. “We’re at a 4% overall reduction in crime,” police Chief Robert Contee told the D.C. Council in October, comparing 2022 crime data to the year before.
The Metropolitan Police Department website is regularly updated with crime statistics. Though homicides have fallen 10% in the last year to date, data shows murders are still up nearly 18% since 2019, before the pandemic. Motor vehicle theft has also increased 4% in 2022 over 2021. Total violent crime is down 7%, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
However, the D.C. Police Union has sounded off on rising crime, tweeting on Dec. 1 that carjackings were up 16% year to date and robberies up 3%.
“We are still short 100s of cops and the responsible policing that used to address this has been prohibited by misguided legislation,” the union said.
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Krepp agrees. She says that if officials want to get serious on crime, they need to prosecute criminals and lock them up.
“I think for too many years people have said, ‘oh, we’re not gonna prosecute, let’s look at stopping crimes before they happen.’ And so, that may have a role in it. But if you don’t prosecute the individuals who’ve already committed the crimes, the folks behind them are looking and going, ‘okay, nothing happened, I’m gonna just do that myself.’ There’s gotta be some strong signal sent and that just hasn’t happened,” Krepp says.
She also thinks the D.C. Council needs to increase their support for police.
“They’ve trash talked them,” Krepp told Fox News. “We’ve got a D.C. police force that nobody wants to go to, the Council saying everybody is awful. Well then, who joins a force when the D. C. Council says they’re awful?”
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If her fellow Democrats are unresponsive to her pleas, Krepp says she’d welcome Republican support.
“I wrote the letter to Congress because I didn’t get any help in the council, and I don’t want to leave office knowing that a rapist could get a new right simply because the council did what it did. I mean, I sought help. And so, if somebody is willing to help me, I don’t really care what party they belong to, I just want their help to make sure that rapists stay in jail. So, if that means standing beside Republicans, happy to do it. Does that mean saying thank you to Republicans? Happy to do it. Rapists have got to stay in jail.”