The painstaking search for a missing California woman that has captured national media attention is hurting murder investigations in Washington, leaders of the police union said Thursday.
“They are pulling homicide detectives away from their districts,” Gerald G. Neill, Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee president, said.
Gregory I. Green, the union’s secretary, said officers are hearing complaints from residents in the neighborhoods they patrol about the search for missing former federal intern Chandra Levy. “We need investigators on unsolved homicides,” Green said. “People are complaining in the community. They believe all of this is media driven.”
Police have no idea what happened to Levy, who has not been seen in 80 days. Her case, which has drawn a torrent of national press because of her relationship with Rep. Gary Condit, a Democrat from Modesto, is the most extensive missing person search ever mounted by the Washington police, Chief Charles Ramsey said.
A police source has said Condit has admitted to an affair with Levy.
Ramsey denied that murder investigations are suffering as a result of the Levy case. “Crime goes on and we’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.
Ramsey has acknowledged problems with murder investigations on his force.
A Washington Post investigation last year revealed that the arrest rate for homicides in the nation’s capital is far lower than in other large cities, files are sometimes lost and some detectives are not qualified to investigate murders.
“It seems like long before Chandra Levy went missing there were some issues around unsolved homicides,” Ramsey said.
The Levy search is frustrating because investigators have found nothing to point them in a particular direction, he said.
The union’s criticism of police leadership came as the FBI moved the Levy case to its Major Crime Squad, which handles long-term investigations, an FBI spokesman said. “Obviously, it has crossed that threshold from short term, just in terms of the time that has gone by,” Ramsey said.
Levy, 24, canceled her health club membership on the evening of April 30 and has not been seen since. However, she spent considerable time the following day using the computer in her apartment, police said. Police hope to make public Friday a list of the Web sites Levy visited on her computer.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., became the third Republican in Congress to call for Condit’s resignation, saying Condit “has not cooperated with authorities investigating this tragic case.” Condit’s attorney has said that the congressman has cooperated fully with police.
Slightly more than half of Condit’s constituents approve of his job performance and want him to serve out his term, according to a CBS News poll.
But more than half of his constituents do not want him to run again and nearly two-thirds believe he has hindered the Levy investigation, according to the poll.
The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.
Also Thursday, the sponsor of an annual conference on women’s health said she is moving it out of Washington next year, in part to protest police handling of the Chandra Levy search. She posted a $10,000 reward in the missing woman’s case.