Early this Tuesday, a shooting near the Pentagon forced a lockdown over one of the most important buildings in the country. The shooting, which is still under active investigation, occurred near the Metro bus entrance which is a platform used by hundreds on a daily basis. Although officials have yet to confirm the number of injured due to the attack, AP has claimed that at least one police officer was shot during the gunfight, according to police sources.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency confirmed early in the morning that the incident had caused a lockdown ninth building, urging people to avoid the area. The lockdown was lifted at noon after the scene of the shooting was deemed to be secured by the proper authorities.
The Arlington County Fire Department informed that they did find a number of patients once they arrived at the scene, although they did not specify much on both the status nor the nature of the patients’ wounds. Albeit the Pentagon is just across the Potomac from D.C, the building is in Arlington, Virginia, and not the District of Columbia proper.
According to the Associated Press, a reporter that was near the area heard multiple gunshots followed by a pause and then an extra gunshot at the least, and another journalist also reported hearing police officers yelling “shooter” in the nearby area.
Indicative of a wider problem?
The shooting at the Pentagon is not the first high-profile crime in the D.C metropolitan area. Earlier last month, a gunfight in Logan Circle left two men wounded in a neighborhood that is well known for its vast amount of restaurants, pedestrians, and passerby. A few days before, there was a similar incident in the outskirts of the Washington Nationals baseball park, when a shootout between two cars sent thousands of expecting Nationals fans ducking for cover and in panic.
The shootings near Logan Circle, at the outsides of the baseball park, and now at the very neuralgic center of the U.S Military are occupying the headlines of the local press and will definitely be at the top of the list of D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has requested to expand the budget for police officers, less than a year after the DC Council voted to cut funding to the police amid the protests following George Floyd’s death.
Last year the District saw a significant uptick in murder, just as the rest of the nation’s major cities. With Metro police reporting 109 murders in 2020, which was a 19% increase from 2019, and 2021 is following a similar trajectory with the police reporting 114 murders, already surpassing 2020 record numbers and with four months still left on the calendar.
Auto theft has also increased in the last couple of years, with 2020 marking a 50% increase in motor vehicle theft with 3,279 cases reported by the Metro police. 2021 has not been so different, with the police reporting a total of 2,071 cases of auto theft, a 24% increase from last year’s record high.
Although other types of crime have either remained stable or even decreased since 2019, such as burglary or assault with a dangerous weapon, the visible increase in the most violent of crimes (murder) will certainly bring pressure to the mayor to leave the fiery rhetoric against police funding behind. Shootings in high-profile places like the Pentagon or the Nationals baseball park will amp up the pressure on the mayor to do something.
The political impact
The rise in murder and other forms of violent crime in American cities has forced a change in the political rhetoric and policy of many Democratic leaders. Many of the major cities (such as New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis) that decided to cut funding to police departments last year have decided to refund them after their cities suffered a surge in the murder rate last year.
One of the greatest examples of this change is the election of former police officer Eric Adams in the New York City mayoral Democratic primary, who made public safety a centerpiece in his successful campaign for the Democratic candidacy.
The American electorate has begun to pay more attention to public safety over the last year. An ABC/Washington Post poll showing that 28% think that crime has become an extreme problem and 31% thinking is a very serious problem for the U.S. This poll also shows that 48% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of crime, while only 38% approve of his job on that issue.
The latest shooting at arguably one of the most well-known buildings of the country will continue to force Democrats to either sell themselves as “tough on crime” candidates, with the risk of upsetting the most radical members of their base, or continue with the 2020 talking point of “defund the police” and risk the disdain of the general electorate.