Editorial

EDITORIAL: Contee’s First Task Must Be Reducing D.C.’s Homicide Rate

2020 will be remembered for years to come in the District including its continued rise in reported homicides – 198 according to the Metropolitan Police Department’s [MPD] website. The total reflects a 19 percent increase from 2019’s 166 homicides. Even more, the nearly 200 homicides mark a 16-year high for D.C.

So, while much attention has rightfully been given to the ongoing health pandemic, it’s impossible to ignore the surge in D.C.’s homicide rate which had been steadily declining for a 25-year period until 2015 when death totals spiked and then began to annually rise.

In fact, 2020 counts as the deadliest year in the District in over a decade based on data from MPD.

But what concerns us even more is how the homicide rate points to a tale of two “cities.” MPD data indicates that in the city’s reported deaths, communities east of the river – that is in wards 7 and 8 – accounted for more than half of all homicides.

We’ll take the word of several DCist reports which point to the summer as the time when homicides began to precariously surge after reaching 100 in July and breaking 170 in November.

What remains unclear – an explanation for these deaths.

Just days ago, we applauded the appointment of veteran MDP officer Robert Contee who took over as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s choice for MPD’s new police chief.

Tragically, before Contee had time to settle into his new position, the District would report its first homicide in 2021: the death of a 22-year-old woman killed early Sunday morning by an errant bullet. Allegedly, as the woman, Kaailyah Rainey and her mother were returning to their home along Wheeler Road in Southeast, a furry of shots rang out – an estimated 40 in total. The mother attempted to avoid the melee, driving several blocks away to Wahler Place. But her daughter would die after being taken to a nearby hospital.

The police say they’re treating her death as a homicide but have no suspects at this time nor do they know what events may have led up to the shootings.

Our community is already overwhelmed with the disproportionate number of deaths related to COVID-19, unemployment and potential evictions. Now, we fear that the mental and emotional well-being of Blacks throughout the District will be further endangered due to this surge in homicides.

We look to Chief Contee to take this assault on our lives as his first priority. But we realize that it will take a village if he and the rest of the MPD are to be successful.

Ironically, Blacks often criticize others for “snitching” on those who commit heinous deeds like the murder of an innocent by-stander – until the person who’s murdered is someone they love.

The time to take back Chocolate City is long overdue.

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