Community

D.C. Leaders Say ‘Enough’ with Rising Homicide Rates

Solutions Offered to End Homicides

District leaders have had enough of the increasing homicide rate and are asking residents to get more involved in fighting crime and to seek solutions to the violence.

“We keep seeing our babies … getting shot,” D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) said at a news conference on July 17 in the aftermath of the killing of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X avenues in Southeast on July 16. “Innocent kids are getting shot. We are seeing this over and over again. It’s not just the mayor, or the council members or the police but it’s on everybody to get involved to stop this. This ain’t nothing new for us. It’s been going on far too long, and it’s on us to save us. Nobody’s coming to save us but us.”

As of Aug. 3, the District homicide tally is 114, up from 109 this time last year, a 5 percent increase, according to Metropolitan Police Department statistics. While the number of homicides has increased, overall violent crime in the District has decreased 1 percent from this time last year.

Nevertheless, the murders of Courtney and educator Kervin Sanches on July 31, along with shootings at Washington Nationals Stadium on July 17 and a gun battle amid tony Logan Circle restaurants on 14th Street NW on July 22, have brought attention to the city’s homicide problem and the availability of guns.

During a July 28, news conference, Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said the homicides must be controlled. Bowser called for more than $11 million to add 170 new police officers but the D.C. Council in a budget vote on Aug. 3 cut that amount to $5 million.

The mayor and the chief have requested the Senate approve 12 D.C. Superior Court judges to facilitate the process of justice. They have requested the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia increase the number of grand juries from two to five.

Bowser requested more support for programs such as Building Blocks DC that employ a public health approach to fighting crime instead of utilizing incarceration.

But both the mayor and the chief echo White’s sentiments that community members and leaders need to come up with solutions to bring down the homicide rate.

SAFETY SOLUTIONS

Ward 8C advisory neighborhood commission chairman Salim Adofo said programs like Building Blocks are fine, but “the District government needs to consolidate its effort to fight homicides.”

“They should identify high-risk individuals and bring them in,” Adofo said. “Many of the people who are in trouble aren’t aware of the wrap-around services that are available to them. Those services need to be in the same building.”

Former Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner Kathy Henderson said a coordinated effort is needed to generate effective policing and reduce the surge in homicide and other violent crime. She said she wants D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) to introduce emergency legislation to bring back retired D.C. police officers on a temporary, contract basis to bolster the active force.

“This is a pragmatic solution, to get experienced and effective officers back on the streets to supplement MPD numbers and combat crime in the District of Columbia,” she said. “We must act now before another child or resident is killed or harmed in our city.”

National Night Out, an event in which police departments hold block parties and cookouts in neighborhoods, took place on Aug. 3 after missing last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ward 8’s was staged at the parking lot of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church. As people visited the various organizational tables and munched on chips, hamburgers and hotdogs, they also offered their thoughts on the best ways to address the city’s homicide rate.

“First of all, we need better parenting programs,” Mable Carter, a Ward 8 resident, said. “We need to learn how to heal in our community. We need to learn how to forgive each other. We need to learn what restorative justice means. Also, we need more crisis intervention.”

Gloria “Nana” Alexander attended the NNO with her young grandchildren. She said restoring vocational education in the District public schools “will help occupy the minds of these young people.”

“We could even bring back home economics for these young women,” she said. “These young people need activities that will fill up their minds and the time they spend. These young people should be focusing on positivity.”

Wendell Whren, a Ward 5 resident, said, “There are a plethora of things that could be done to stop homicides.

“People who commit gun violence have tremendous needs,” Whren said. “Many people in our community are mentally, physically and emotionally hurting. We can’t change some people’s violent ways but we can put a dent into it.”

Whren also had another suggestion:

“Instead of having NNO here at the church, maybe it would be better to have in the actual neighborhoods where the killing is taking place.”

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