Homicides in the District are down from one year ago — that’s the good news. But violent crimes continue to escalate — including the recent fatal stabbing at a Popeyes in Prince George’s County that reportedly occurred after the victim cut line to the shooting of a “violence interrupter,” Clarence Venable, 40, murdered in the Southeast community where he lived and had hoped to make a difference in reducing the troubling escalation in violence.
Venable’s death marks the 152nd killing in D.C. this year — a number slightly higher over the same time last year and on pace to reach the highest total in the last 10 years. At the same time, robberies without a gun have risen from a year ago, now totaling 1,343 — an increase of 243 — highlighted by the arrest of a 12-year-old Southeast youth arrested last weekend and charged with committing four recent robberies in Northwest.
Certainly, initiatives led by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and this week’s announcement by Mayor Bowser to increase the number of crime cameras, a decision supported by the District’s police brass, should prove beneficial in identifying and prosecuting criminals and violent offenders and thus make our streets and communities safer.
But we suggest that these and other crime prevention programs may fail to address one of the primary causes for the recent spike in violence — the inability to diffuse and manage anger which uncontrolled can lead one, regardless of age, to act out in ways that they might reconsider once in a better and more rational state of mind.
So, while the mayor has promised more cameras in Wards 1, 5, 7 and 8 where the greatest increase in violence has occurred, we suggest the inclusion of comprehensive mental health programs that help youth and adults alike learn about and master proven and effective methods of anger management.
If we can provide substantive instruction in conflict resolution for those unfamiliar with its use and the win-win outcome to which it more often leads, maybe we can turn the tide. Anger, some psychologists suggest, is like an iceberg that only allows us to see the “tip” of the cause of one’s emotional struggles.
It’s time we helped our community get to the root cause or causes of the anger which lies underneath and has held them prisoner for most of their lives.