D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday an expansion of the city’s violence prevention and intervention program, including spreading the initiative into new communities.
The efforts, managed by Gun Violence Prevention Director Linda K. Harllee Harper with the support of Del McFadden, director of the Office of the Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE), will now also focus on the areas of Congress Park in Ward 8, Shaw in Ward 2 and Edgewood in Ward 5.
Bowser said she will use every tool available to her to curb the city’s crime rate.
“We are throwing every resource at the rise in violent crime,” the mayor said during a news conference at the Southeast Tennis & Learning Center in Ward 8. “We’re expanding our efforts to reach people before they get involved in violence. We want people to know that we have resources and opportunities to support them, and these violence intervention teams are doing the critical work of getting that word out and connecting people to the many programs we have available that can help them change their lives.”
Bowser said $1.1 million will be offered in grants to organizations that work to stop gun violence. Additionally, the Pathways Program will receive $4.5 million in federal funds to aid 130 at-risk residents.
McFadden said floating teams of violence interrupters will be created to cover neighborhoods not under the ONSE program. The floating interrupters will work to facilitate peace among quarreling residents.
Present programs under ONSE will also have increased funding, McFadden said.
Harper, who runs the city’s Building Blocks DC program launched in February, said helping victimized residents and those engaged in criminal activity to become employed remains a priority for her program.
“We have had two ‘jobs not guns’ fairs this year,” Harper said. “One was in July at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and the other a few weeks ago at the Entertainment & Sports Arena. We had 250 people come to the job fair at the Entertainment & Sports Arena. The employers that were there understood that many of the job fair participants had employment background issues. Also, we offered workshops in how to look for a job, prepare a resume and dress for interviews.”
Bowser said jobs are plentiful in the District, even for those with spotty background records.
“Everyone is hiring,” the mayor said. “There are more jobs than there are people. Even people with background challenges should be able to find a job.”