September 19, 2014 Leave a comment
Policy and Regulatory Insights in the Healthcare and Insurance Industries
September 19, 2014 Leave a comment
September 18, 2014 Leave a comment
New poll gives Bowser double-digit lead but reveals that vulnerabilities remain
D.C. mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz. (The Washington Post)
Democratic nominee Muriel E. Bowser has emerged from a contentious summer on the campaign trail with a hefty advantage in the race for D.C. mayor, holding a double-digit lead over two independent rivals, according to a new NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll.
Bowser has the support of 43 percent of likely voters, with fellow D.C. Council member David A. Catania following with 26 percent and former lawmaker Carol Schwartz with 16 percent.
The poll follows weeks of speculation about whether this year’s contest is on track to become the most competitive general election for mayor in the District’s 40-year electoral history. And it does not entirely answer the question: Although Bowser’s lead gives her a comfortable edge in the three-way contest, the poll revealed several weaknesses for her — and opportunities for her opponents.
The survey includes evidence of some voter doubt about Bowser’s readiness to assume the mayoralty and her vision for the city. But likely voters rate her more personable and a more effective leader than her opponents, and she leads on two issues poll respondents say they are most concerned about — the economy and education.
The dominance of Democratic voters, who make up the vast majority of the D.C. electorate, continues to weigh in Bowser’s favor. Her rivals have tried to chip away at the advantage, with Catania circulating “Democrats for David” yard signs, but Bowser has retained the loyalties of about half of Democratic voters — including nearly half of those who supported incumbent Vincent C. Gray in the primary — while independents are evenly split among the three candidates.
Muriel Bowser leads D.C. mayor’s race, poll finds.
Willis Thomas Jr., a 49-year-old fire department captain and Democrat who lives in Brightwood, said his vote is Bowser’s to lose. “I don’t just vote for Democrats; I have to hear from every side,” he said. “But . . . the chance of me voting Democratic is high unless they mess things up based on what they do in their campaign.”
Thomas said he was impressed by the background of Bowser, the only candidate born and raised in the District. “I think she cares about what’s going on, about the people in the city,” he said. “She kind of had a middle-class background. I think she understands a lot of that. Can she do the things that need to be done to fix the problems? Who knows?”
Opportunity for opponents
The poll casts doubt on the prospect that a surge in independent or Republican voters could help Catania or Schwartz overtake Bowser in a city in which three in four voters are registered Democrats. Non-Democrats account for only 23 percent of likely voters identified in the survey.
Yet the poll found room for either Catania or Schwartz to steal a significant share of Democratic support from Bowser. About one in four Democratic likely voters currently support Catania, and two in three Democrats say they would “somewhat seriously” consider voting for a non-Democrat.
Bowser, who represents Ward 4 on the council, earns the support of less than two-thirds of the primary voters who backed her five months ago when she defeated Gray. Since a Washington Post poll in March asked voters about a Bowser-Catania matchup, she has weaker support across the city, especially among registered Democrats, white voters, younger voters and women.
Voters think that Catania, an at-large council member since 1997, has about as much experience and as compelling a vision for the city as Bowser. But Catania has not capitalized on Bowser’s weaknesses.
Since the Post’s March poll, which took place a month after he entered the race, Catania’s share of the electorate has barely budged. He has no advantage among independents, and crucially, he has not staked a claim on the issue of education — which he has made the cornerstone of his campaign. He trails Bowser, 40 percent to 30 percent, among likely voters who say education is the most important issue in the race. Fourteen percent of those voters favor Schwartz, who has also highlighted her education platform.
A look at the key candidates’ views on some of the most pressing issues facing Washington.
Additionally, Catania’s reputation for a confrontational style appeared to register in the poll, with just 19 percent of likely voters saying that Catania has the best temperament to be mayor. In contrast, 40 percent say Bowser has the best temperament, and 23 percent choose Schwartz.
John Whall, a 53-year-old health management executive who lives in the U Street area, said he has ruled out a vote for Catania based on personality concerns. “I have personal experience and anecdotal experience, and he’s not someone I want running the government in any shape or form,” he said. “Ultimately, your job is to make the process work. He gets an idea in his head or a notion in his head, and that’s it.”
Whall said he has some doubts about Bowser’s readiness, but he said, “She’ll hopefully muddle along and figure it out. I think she’s young, and I think she’s smart, and I think she’s been in the city.”
Renewed campaign efforts
The NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll was conducted Sept. 14 to 16 among a random sample of 1,249 D.C. adults reached on conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points among the sample of 572 likely voters.
The survey was taken at a critical period in the long-percolating mayoral race. With fewer than 50 days until Election Day, the campaigns have started new efforts to make their pitches to voters.
Last week, Schwartz formally kicked off her campaign with a Freedom Plaza rally in which she made the case that she is best equipped to serve as a “bridge” between old and new residents. On Monday, Catania unveiled a lengthy platform, renewing his case that he has the most detailed and ambitious vision for the city. And on Wednesday morning, Bowser debuted radio ads on key African American-oriented stations, using her superior campaign bankroll to shore up support among her base of Democratic voters.
On Thursday evening, the three candidates will meet at American University for their first formal debate — one of four that Bowser has committed to — broadening the race beyond media interviews, voter mail and living room meet-and-greets to give voters a more intimate, side-by-side comparison.
Both Catania and Schwartz have an opportunity in the number of likely voters who don’t know them — 35 percent for him and 36 percent for her. Bowser, in contrast, is unknown by only 28 percent of likely voters.
Concerns that Schwartz could serve as a spoiler for Catania — aired after her surprise entry into the race in June — appear to be unfounded. The 16 percent of likely voters who support her are nearly evenly divided between Catania and Bowser when asked their second-choice candidate in the race.
Instead, the former four-term council member is drawing voters attracted to her unusual, even quirky, profile. “She is a social liberal but a fiscal conservative,” said Carrie Thomas, a 41-year-old financial manager living on Capitol Hill. “That’s me. . . . People can call it a wasted vote if they want, but I disagree. If only four people vote for her, that’s fine.”
Overall, Bowser earns the support of a majority of African American likely voters in the poll, as well as voters making less than $75,000 a year and those who did not complete college. Catania performs the strongest among white voters, with 41 percent of white likely voters supporting him. He and Bowser earn equal support among the more affluent and college-educated. Schwartz narrowly tops Catania among African American voters, only 11 percent of whom support his candidacy in the poll.
Rachel Weiner and Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.
Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
Kevin Wrege, Esq.
Founder & President
Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC
4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150
Washington, DC 20016
September 9, 2014 Leave a comment
D.C. attorney general candidates say hello as first campaign starts taking shape
By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, September 8 at 7:56 PM
The first campaign for District attorney general eased into motion Monday morning, with the five candidates taking turns introducing themselves to an influential crowd of lawyers, activists and media.
The event, sponsored by D.C. Vote, was in the Capitol Hill offices of a corporate law firm, Jones Day. But the five Democrats running — Lorie Masters, Karl Racine, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Lateefah Williams and Paul Zukerberg — each sought to highlight their commitment to serving residents through consumer protection litigation and by rooting out corruption in government.
Until now, District voters have been served by attorneys general appointed by the city’s mayors. A charter amendment approved by voters in 2010 converted the office to an elected position, and the D.C. Court of Appeals earlier this year turned back an attempt by the D.C. Council to delay the first election, which will be Nov. 4.
The attorney general’s duties include providing legal advice to city officials and defending the city in litigation. But much about the posture of the elected office will be determined by the first person to hold it. For more than two hours, each candidate took questions from Shelley Broderick, dean of the University of the District of Columbia’s law school, as well as audience members.
Masters, 59, said her background as a high-stakes litigator for insurance beneficiaries put her in good stead to represent the public interest. “Whether I’m representing individuals or companies, I’ve really been fighting for a consumer-oriented result in those cases,” she said, before highlighting her advocacy for D.C. voting rights and autonomy.
If elected, Masters said, she will focus on government transparency issues and greater “self-determination” for the city.
Racine, 51, spent much of his time describing his professional qualifications, including a stint as deputy White House counsel and as managing partner of the Venable firm.
He said he would focus on enforcing lightly enforced laws governing city contracting and affordable housing, and that matters of ethics and accountability would be a high priority. “They want D.C. politicians to be four times better than politicians from other states,” he said of city residents, referring to the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. “Can you imagine what would happen if our governor and our first lady . . . were convicted on more than two dozen criminal charges?”
Zukerberg, 56, a solo practitioner who waged the court battle that overturned the council’s delay, said he would help young people being ill-served by the criminal justice system. A proponent of marijuana decriminalization, Zukerberg said he would pursue a “restorative justice agenda” that would allow nonviolent criminals to have their records more easily expunged or sealed.
Zukerberg was also critical of previous attorneys general. “I have not seen someone in my 30 years in that office where I can tell you, ‘Gee, I love that person, and I love what that person did,” he said. “They are not representing the public interest.”
Williams, 37, said she would take a more community-based approach and focus on “vulnerable constituencies” — a tack inspired by her career in political and policy jobs rather than in law practice.
“My experience is diversified,” she said, referring to work for the union representing Metro workers and a long record of activism on gay and lesbian issues. “But my bread and butter has been in the community.”
Smith, 34, described going from a childhood in “one of the roughest areas of the city” to Brown University and Harvard Law School, then to President Obama’s campaign and a series of legal jobs in the federal government.
“I want to work on efficiency and helping people build their skill sets,” Smith said of his goals for the office. He also pledged to establish a task force on “autonomy issues” in the District. “My family has lived here since the 1940s; not once have we been able to vote for a voting representative in Congress,” he said. “For me, D.C. voting rights and autonomy are very personal issues.”
September 4, 2014 Leave a comment
D.C.’s health exchange is still hampered by delays, glitches 11 months after launch
By Robert McCartney Columnist, Washington Post, September 3 at 7:22 PM
While Democratic partisans tout the latest conventional wisdom that Obamacare is finally going strong, the experience of many ordinary people who apply for it says otherwise.
The ongoing delays and irritation that consumers endure while navigating the District’s health insurance exchange offer a window into the reality on the street.
Local health insurance brokers, who have a front-row view of the obstacles, say the District’s exchange continues to suffer from technical bugs on the Web site and poor communication with insurance companies. They said it’s maddeningly difficult to fix problems once they arise.
“It’s been a tremendously frustrating and laborious experience,” said Steve Nearman, a broker and financial adviser, who has placed nearly 100 cases for clients on D.C. Health Link.
“I made excuses for them for the first three months, because it was unprecedented demand, but now we’re in September,” he said. “I just don’t know why things aren’t getting quicker.”
My column last week about a Harvard-educated lawyer who wasted months trying to get insurance via the District’s exchange triggered a spurt of detailed e-mails from others complaining of similar difficulties.
I don’t write this to bash the Affordable Care Act. Far from it.
Like the brokers and almost all who wrote me, I strongly support the health law and value its benefits. I ask merely that it function properly.
“There are good things about it, but it’s being ruined by poor execution, not only at the federal but now on the state level,” Robert Poli, president of the Insurance Marketing Center in Rockville, said.
The District was supposed to be a rare bright spot for the health law. Its Web site was one of only four that didn’t crash on opening day in October. The city has performed better than Maryland, which is replacing its site after notorious problems.
Still, my inbox suggests the District still has much to fix. Here’s a sampling of horror stories:
■ Catherine Shaw, a retiree who lives in Georgetown, applied for coverage July 2, but “some glitch” prevented her income information from entering the system. She reapplied last month, only to be stymied by a conflict with her first application. She applied a third time, but said she was told there is still is “no known date as to when this process would be completed.”
■ Amy Dara Hochberg, a yoga teacher in Northwest, said it required four months and “numerous phone calls” to get coverage in the spring. When insurance was finally activated, she was charged for all of April even though only five days remained in the month. She said the problems “cost me time without health care coverage when I needed it, energy that took me away from my work and life, and money lost on the April premium.”
■ Amy Muhlberg, a government relations consultant who lives near Eastern Market, had to buy expensive coverage under the federal COBRA plan for March after the District exchange improperly denied her application. She was the wrong person to rebuff. As a former staff member on a Senate committee that considered the ACA, Muhlberg knew precisely what it required. She took the case to an administrative law hearing before it was cleared up.
“What happened to me was annoying, but I had the resources to suck it up,” Muhlberg, who has a PhD in biochemistry, said. “What truly bothered me was that there were other people out there that this happened to who did not have the resources I had.”
What can be done? Poli, whose company works with about 300 brokers who have dealt with the District’s system, and Nearman offered some constructive suggestions.
First, continue to upgrade the exchange’s Web site. Far too much information goes astray, and it’s too difficult to make updates or fixes.
Second, do more to educate the exchange staff, insurance company personnel and the public about how the process works.
Third, shorten the delay between passing an application from the exchange to an insurance company, and sending the individual the bill to pay to complete the sign-up process.
There’s little time to spare. The volume of work is going to jump soon. A new open enrollment period begins in November, and the Web site starts handling companies’ group insurance plans in 2015.
“I don’t think D.C. is ready,” Poli said.
August 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Driverless vehicles? Even in D.C. streets? An autonomous car takes a capital test run.
By Ashley Halsey III, Washington Post, August 25 at 7:33 PM
The Washington Post goes for a spin in Carnegie Melon University’s autonomous vehicle. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) says it’s the way of the future. (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)
Driverless cars are coming. And those of us who drive in Washington know that the city offers its own particular version of driver hell. What we don’t know is what will happen when the autocar finds itself in that hell. So we set out on a summer afternoon to see how a driverless car could do on the streets of the nation’s capital.
The little car is tootling around Washington — pretty much on its own — when a police officer bolts into the road ahead of it, almost within spitting distance of the Capitol dome.
What is the cop waving about? Hard to say. The car is being driven by computers, and wild waving is a bit too complicated for them to understand.
Passenger Jarrod Snider taps a button on the center console and put his hands on the steering wheel.
“Autonomous ready,” the voice of the computer says a fraction of a second later, eager to take control again.
Swing a stick on the Mall this summer and you’ll hit a dozen skeptics who doubt the streets of Washington — or any city — ever will be filled with cars that drive themselves. But the doubters may well witness that transformation in their lifetime, and very likely sooner than they think.
The ability of the vehicle cruising unnoticed among the tourists and important people in pinstripes on Capitol Hill would shock most of them. A ride in it also points to a few chinks in its armor.
The autonomous car uses three types of sensors to make decisions. See how the cars work.
The computers running the car, for example, can see the police officer bustling into the middle of Constitution Avenue at First Street NW. But they can’t figure out why he is doing it — and neither can the people riding in the car. It turns out the officer wants to wave off a driver in another car who was making an improper turn.
Could the car have handled it without Snider’s help?
“Yeah, it started to slow down before I took over,” Snider says, “and as he stepped out of [our] lane and walked across the street, the car would have continued to go. The car obviously doesn’t understand gestures like ‘Stop here.’ ”
If this car — a silver-gray Cadillac SUV converted to autonomous driving by Carnegie Mellon University — looked the least bit odd, the Capitol Police would swarm after it with machine guns.
It doesn’t. But it’s bristling with technological weapons.
Two cameras — one pointing up at traffic signals, the other down at lane lines — are hidden beneath a slight ridge added just above the windshield. There is longer-range radar behind the Cadillac medallion on the front grille and shorter-range radar behind the front bumper. A pair of laser beams peer out from that bumper. Unseen behind tinted windows near the back seat, from unobtrusive boxes that match the Cadillac’s tan interior, a radar and a laser beam look out to each side. From the rear bumper, more radar and lasers.
All of them feed into a bank of four computers hidden in the spare-tire well beneath the rear floor of the vehicle. The computers also get GPS data and mapping feeds. They know speed limits and, unlike the other driver on Constitution Avenue, places where left turns are illegal and where right turns on red are okay. If one computer fails, the others take over its chores and the person behind the wheel gets an alert.
Right now, put the Cadillac on an interstate and its developers say it could drive you from Washington to San Francisco, though it would need your assistance at gas stations.
But in D.C.? That’s another matter.
The city’s streets are full of cars driven by impatient locals and bewildered tourists. Pedestrians talking on cellphones, texting tourists, cabs darting across lanes to grab a fare, bicyclists by the dozens, out-of-state tour buses whose drivers appear to be feeling their way around town.
Jarrod Snider of Carnegie Mellon University manually parks an autonomous car on Capitol Hill in June. The 2011 Cadillac SRX has been retrofitted with cameras and sensors that can detect traffic lights and pedestrians and read some road signs. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
“We’ve tested this vehicle in many areas, and this area is pretty difficult,” Snider says, dropping his hands from the wheel as the computers take over again. “We think it’s doing a pretty good job. ”
“But we have more work to do,” Raj Rajkumar, the Carnegie Mellon professor who directs the project, says from the back seat.
The car buzzes on down Constitution, flips on its right-turn signal, slows and then turns south on First Street. It identifies a red traffic light and dutifully stops in front of the Supreme Court until the light changes.
Then there’s trouble.
A white service truck is stopped in the right lane just past the light, and a yellow cone plopped behind it says it isn’t going anywhere soon.
“I’m going to take over to get us past,” Snider says, punching the console button. “It doesn’t have the higher-level reasoning like we have that there’s a cone there so this truck’s probably not going to move. So it’s trying to cue up in traffic, basically. It’ll just sit there.”
The computers are back in command as the car nears Independence Avenue, signals its intent to turn right and then stops to wait for the red light to change. This traffic light is one of six in the District that alerts the Cadillac to its color. Some day all lights may do that, but the car’s cameras don’t really need the help.
The main computer control center resides in the rear cargo area of the car. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
The intersection is aswarm with the lunch-hour crowd, and each pedestrian in the crosswalk or sidewalk shows up as a green squiggle on the standard dashboard screen that Cadillac builds into all its vehicles. In this one, however, the screen displays 360 degrees around the car: people, obstacles, traffic signals, construction zones and other vehicles.
The big red bus in the right lane on Independence Avenue is the Cadillac’s next challenge.
“Changing lanes,” the computer announces, moving to get around it.
The bus driver apparently doesn’t like that.
“We’re trying to pass him, but then he cut us off,” Snider says.
If she is upset — and the firm but melodious voice of the vehicle unquestionably belongs to a woman — she doesn’t let on. Her verbal skills are limited. In addition to “Autonomous ready” and “Changing lanes,” she says “Starting up,” “Entering work zone” and “Exiting work zone.”
The rest of the computers’ communication — currently and what’s planned in the future — come in chimes, beeps and vibrations. If the person in the driver’s seat touches the wheel or either of the floor pedals, much as with cruise control, the computer relinquishes control. If the computer needs the driver to take over, the steering wheel and passenger seat may vibrate.
A black rectangle below the rear bumper is one of many hidden sensors on the self-driven car. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
A small camera is mounted next to the vehicles rear-view mirror. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
“Sometimes, if it becomes not confident about something, it can tell you to take over, and if everything’s okay, it can tell you it’s ready to drive autonomous,” says Snider, lead engineer on the project at Carnegie Mellon. “It’s just providing some feedback to the driver.”
Anybody who has tried to turn left from Independence onto Washington Avenue knows that’s a lousy intersection, and the Caddy computers see that, too.
“It doesn’t have a green arrow here, so obviously it’s got to detect the cars coming from the other direction,” Snider says as the car waits patiently, then makes the turn, veers right onto Second Street and then takes the on-ramp to Interstate 395 south.
As two merge lanes that lead to the highway come together, a silver Mercedes suddenly forges ahead and Snider pops the console control button.
“Maybe I should have let [the computers] do that,” he says with regret after the merge is complete. “It definitely has some trouble with that because of the drivers here. The car doesn’t have that kind of aggressiveness. It won’t push its way in or force its way into a merge.”
Back in control, the computers accelerate the car to 50 mph as it crosses the bridge into Virginia, surrounded by other cars.
“It’s determining how fast to drive based on the curvature of the road, based on the other cars in front of it,” Snider says. “It knows the speed limit, and it’s not going to violate the speed limit. But it can obviously do other things, like here you can see it’s slowing down to make its way into the other cars.”
“Changing lane,” the computer chimes in.
“So all of this is being updated in real time at a very high rate, determining what to do,” he says. “So now it’s just taking an exit here.”
The car zips off I-395, takes a right in front of the Pentagon and then neatly merges back onto I-395 headed north. Over the bridge, it will peel off the freeway back into D.C. traffic and complete an uneventful trip back to a parking space beside the Capitol reflecting pool.
Driverless cars are coming to the United States and rest of the globe, Rajkumar is saying as the Cadillac covers the final blocks.
Professor Raj Rajkumar is director of Carnegie Mellon University’s autonomous-car project. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
“Absolutely no doubt at all,” he says, before quickly acknowledging the doubters. “I welcome their skepticism. Technology cannot be stopped. We just have to make sure that it is safe, affordable and legal.”
Don’t expect an autonomous car to land in your driveway with a “big bang,” he says.
Remember anti-lock brakes? How about cruise control?
Those were the first steps, he says.
The next one coming in assembly-line cars — within three to five years — will be a highway pilot feature, he says. Put the car in the correct lane, tell it to go to San Francisco, and it will.
A year or two later, highway “plus-plus” will arrive, allowing that San Francisco-bound car to weave around the slowpokes along the way.
In the same time frame — three to four years — look for traffic-jam assist capability. The car will take over for your while inching through bumper-to-bumper traffic and alert you to take back control once there’s clear sailing.
“The [totally] driverless version will happen in the 2020s,” he says. “But the whole process will be incremental. More and more scenarios that we drive in will become automated, and one fine day you’ve given up complete control, but you don’t even notice.”
Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
Kevin Wrege, Esq.
Founder & President
Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC
4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150
Washington, DC 20016
August 25, 2014 Leave a comment
Top aide to D.C. mayor departs, leaving Gray without key negotiator on soccer stadium
Janene Jackson (right), Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s director of policy and legislative affairs, is the latest high-profile departure from the mayor’s office. Gray will leave office in January. (Executive Office of the Mayor, D.C./Courtesy of the Executive Office of the Mayor)
By Aaron C. Davis, Washington Post, August 22
Janene D. Jackson, a top aide to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, is leaving early next month, further endangering Gray’s hopes of convincing the city council to approve a complicated land deal to build a soccer stadium in his final months in office.
Jackson was among Gray’s first appointments after his victory in 2010. A former aide to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, she was credited with restoring working ties between the offices of the mayor and council, which had grown hostile and dysfunctional during the tenure of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
She was also the city’s top liaison to Congress during tough years, as Gray often taunted congressional leaders over budget shutdowns and efforts to secure voting rights and statehood.
Jackson is the latest in a series of key departures from Gray’s inner circle since he lost the Democratic primary to Council member Muriel E. Bowser in April.
Pedro Ribeiro, Gray’s communications director, left this month for a senior post in the Department of Homeland Security. Gray’s directors of transportation and consumer and regulatory affairs have also left.
Janene Jackson (center), was Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s director of policy and legislative affairs. Previously she held a top post at the D.C. Chamber of Commerce (Executive Office of the Mayor/Courtesy of the Executive Office of the Mayor)
Jackson will become senior counsel at Holland and Knight’s public policy and regulation group, practicing law and eventually lobbying, once a one-year prohibition for doing so with the District expires.
In an e-mail to senior staff members this week, Gray’s chief of staff, Chris Murphy, lauded Jackson for her service and patience in the seemingly “impossible task” of managing relationships between the mayor and council.
August 18, 2014 Leave a comment
Live in the Washington region? Good news: Odds are your car won’t be stolen.
By Ashley Halsey III, Washington Post, August 18 at 12:01 AM
Good news: If you live in the Washington region, odds are your car won’t be stolen.
In fact, there’s never been a better time for your car not to be stolen if you live in or around Washington.
Fewer cars were stolen in Maryland last year than at any time since 1975. (Back in the Gerald Ford era they used to keep records on something called “paper,” and after computers came into vogue, that information seems to have disappear, so there’s no way of knowing whether Maryland’s 2013 low was an all-time low.)
Virginia had the lowest stolen car rates in almost 40 years, and car theft has dropped 60 percent in the District in the past decade.
Best guess is that cars are harder to steal and easier to find.
John B. Townsend II of AAA attributes the decline to “increased public awareness, warp-speed advances in factory-installed and after-market anti-theft-prevention technology.”
That’s been helped by better police techniques, like the use of patrol-car-mounted cameras, which scan the license plates of rows of parked cars as the police vehicle rolls down a street.
That’s all well and good, provided you’re not one of the unlucky ones.
There were 13,429 vehicles stolen in Maryland last year, according to the state’s recently released 2013 Uniform Crime Report, a 7.3 percent decrease from 2012.
Prince George’s County has the lowest number of thefts on record, almost 16 percent below the previous year, but still leads the state with 4,293 vehicles swiped. Montgomery County almost matched its Maryland neighbor with an almost 15 percent drop, with 913 stolen cars.
The crime report put a value on the state’s stolen vehicles — $77,590,345 — and another value on the number of cars recovered — $50,164,181 — for a net loss of $27,426,154.
With the economy improving and vehicle theft becoming more difficult, the local trends were reflected nationwide, according to data tracking by AAA Insurance. The National Insurance Crime Bureau said there were 697,979 motor vehicle thefts, a slight decline.
The crime bureau said that drop came after an unexplained “small increase in vehicle thefts [in 2012] ended a consecutive eight-year run of decreasing thefts.”
The District reported 3,147 stolen vehicles, a more than 11 percent decline over the previous year, according to the 2013 Crime Report by the Metropolitan Police Department.
The D.C. number is down dramatically from 2009, when 5,299 vehicles were stolen, and from 2004, when 8,136 motor vehicles were taken.
Across Virginia, there were 8,318 auto thefts in 2013, according to data compiled by the Virginia Help Eliminate Auto Theft program.
Northern Virginia and the two other densely populated parts of the state recorded the highest rates of stolen cars.
Thefts declined almost 7 percent last year in Fairfax County, with 767 vehicles stolen. Arlington County had 157 thefts last year, a decrease of 13.74 percent.
The drop was more than 23 percent in Loudoun County, where 112 vehicles were stolen. Prince William County recorded 327 thefts, a 10.41 percent decline.
“Since, 1991, Virginia’s motor vehicle theft rate per 100,000 residents has declined by approximately 68 percent,” according to the Virginia State Police 2013 Facts and Figures Report.
Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.