What is a community impact statement?

There's been a lot of discussion about public safety in DC, Capitol Hill, and Hill East lately, growing out of an increase in the number of violent crimes in many parts of the city relative to the past few years. Those discussions, whether on the newhilleast listserv or at public meetings, such as Councilmember Allen's office hours and the large meeting at the Friendship Charter School with Councilmember Allen and Chief Lanier last week, have generated a lot of questions along with a lot of information on how residents can promote safe streets and neighborhoods.

One item that came up at the meeting with Chief Lanier and Councilmember Allen was the community impact statement. This is a mechanism associated with sentencing, once a defendant has been arrested and convicted, by which the community can bring to bear information on how it is affected by the crime(s) someone committed. The goal is to ensure that the sentencing process reflects the impact on the community. The US Department of Justice, which through the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO), prosecutes many crimes in DC, has a brief but helpful description of community impact statements here.

Community impact statements are not done in all cases. Because they require significant effort on the part of the community, they tend to be somewhat rare. But they are important, since they can affect sentencing and broader community safety. The USAO encourages community members to work through their ANC commissioner to submit an impact statement. 

Recently I worked with residents in 6B06 to submit a community impact statement related to the conviction of a defendant arrested repeatedly for package theft in our neighborhood. The residents compiled a statement that documents how repeated thefts had negatively impacted them and their community, and we submitted it with the help of Doug Klein of USAO. The statement was read in court and contributed to the sentence the judge issued.

If you know of a case where you would like to see a community impact statement submitted, please get in touch with me or with Doug Klein.