It seems every day Mayor Bowser or the D.C. Council comes up with some new strategy to tackle D.C.’s ever-increasing violent crime rate. And they may address aspects of the overall issue of violent crime, even as D.C. reaches a 16 year high in homicide victims. But it is impossible to know because once initiated there is never any follow-up.
Amid the calls for criminal justice reform, one thing is missing: complete, real-time, independent accurate information about what is happening across the entire criminal justice system, not just its parts. In fact, across D.C’s criminal justice system it is hard to know what is going on.
D.C. Witness is an effort to change that. We will track violent crime, starting with homicides, domestic violence and sexual assault cases, from act to judicial resolution, telling every story. We believe that transparency leads to accountability.
We will report every step of the judicial process but we are different from traditional journalism because we do not provide selective coverage on the most gory or headline-grabbing stories.
We are also data hogs. We will grab every bit of public data we can and then verify and enhance it. We will track over 100 different measures and allow the public to do its own data sifting from what we gather. We hope that by providing accurate, reliable data, we can help lead to meaningful criminal justice reform.
That said, we are nonpartisan and non-advocacy. There are lots of different ideas and many important voices that need to be heard. We believe our value is by letting the data and the process speak for themselves. We will tell you what the data says but we will never tell you what should be done about it.
A BRIEF HISTORY
D.C. Witness was founded in 2015 as an effort to provide internships to student-journalists as other media internships started to fade away as the industry changed.
Within a year it became clear that nobody else was doing the reporting D.C. Witness was, both reporting on the communities of color that are those most caught up in our judicial system and providing the kind of transparency of the criminal justice system that is needed. It had become much larger than an internship program.
These were the early days of big data and it was about this time that we started to gather data.
As of 2021, we have more than 200,000 data points on more than 1,100 homicides. And that data grows every day.
We realized that we had grown from a website into a methodology and a unique vehicle for transparency and accountability. We were no longer just about homicides in D.C. but categories of crime on a local level and expanded to the next area we believe deserves more attention than it gets – domestic violence.
You can’t fix what you can’t count. That is why we are here.
D.C. Witness is the sister site of Baltimore Witness, which is located in Baltimore, Md.