The increased number of homicides in the District has residents, leaders and a noted District scholar contemplating the next steps in stemming the tide of violence which has recently plagued various parts of the city.
“We have to learn to value our community,” said Warees Majeed, the chief operating officer for the Ward 8-based, nonprofit Yaay Me in Southeast. “We have long talked about solutions to gun violence. However, we should also talk about valuing ourselves more.”
Majeed said District residents need to value the communities in which they reside particularly given the escalating homicide rate. As of Aug. 5, the city’s homicide rate stood at 128 – slightly higher than 121 recorded at the same time last year – a 12% increase according to statistics from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
On Aug. 1, members of the Washington Wizards and a player with the Washington Mystics joined community leaders including Majeed for a meeting at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center in Ward 8 to discuss strategies for dealing with the increasing homicide rate. But many who attended the meeting wondered afterward what the next steps would or should entail.
Charles Adams, chairman of Bowie State University’s Department of Criminal Justice in Prince George’s County, said a comprehensive plan should be implemented without delay. He knows many District residents remain frustrated and concerned with the rise in gun-related deaths but said programs created to solve the problem need time to work.
“If I institute something by Monday, would I see results by Friday?” Adams asked while speaking to a reporter on local radio station, WTOP, Aug. 3. “What I see is a, ‘we don’t quite understand what’s happening but we have to do something.’”
Adams said the present trend upward regarding homicides started around 2015 but like many cities throughout the country, the District didn’t really discuss ways to thwart it. He said any discussion on stemming the homicide rate must include talking about the state of the District’s public schools, the local economy and issues regarding parenting.
Robin McKinney serves as the advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 8A06 in Ward 8. McKinney said any discussion on next steps or solutions to the homicide problem have to start with the home life of the perpetrators and the victims.
“Many of the kids who live in areas where gun violence is common deal with prostitution, poverty and guns when they step outside of their homes,” McKinney said. “It is easy for them to get a gun in their neighborhood. Also, the parents are either not there to support them or have significant problems themselves.”
McKinney said generational conflicts, known as “beefs” also play a role. As an example, McKinney cited a shooting incident that occurred in the 1990s which still has an impact today.
“I know of situations where a mother will cry about a son who died decades ago and is still grieving about it,” she said. “There may be a picture of her dead son in the house and the mother will get emotional every time she sees it. I have heard about conversations between people where one person says to another ‘your brother killed my brother.’ Plus, you have these neighborhood beefs where people from one neighborhood have a conflict with another that are ongoing.”
McKinney said many homicide perpetuators and victims have had no mental health services to address their pain.
“There is no healing process for them,” she said. “People just have to find a way to deal with their pain with no help.”
Majeed said the devaluing of neighborhoods where homicides tend to occur must stop in order to end the violence.
“In the past, our neighborhoods were clean,” he said. “The streets were clean and the yards were nice-looking. The neighborhoods were clean despite the people living there having low incomes.”
Majeed also spoke about the importance of valuing people on a personal level.
“You would not want to harm anyone you value, whether that be your brother or sister or a friend,” he said. “You can’t take a life if you value life.”
District government leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser and Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8) have proposed solutions and next steps to reduce the troubling homicide rate. However, Majeed and McKinney both agree residents should – must get more involved.
“It’s on everybody to put a stop to this,” McKinney said. “We have to get to a place where a grandmother or a child getting shot is not the norm.”
Majeed said, “it is not the responsibility of the mayor and the councilman to deal with the problem.”
“It is our community that is being affected and it is our responsibility to value our community,” he said. “But we as a city need to invest more in education and public safety. What we invest in shows what we as a city value.”