Editorial

EDITORIAL: Police Can Help Curb Violence in Southeast but Not Without the Community’s Assistance

Tuesday was a rough day for District residents in Southeast and that’s putting it mildly.

As Sept. 21 drew to a close, an on-duty female security guard was fatally shot around 8:30 p.m. under conditions which police say remain a mystery.

Her death occurred just hours after two others, a man and a nine-year-old boy, were injured by gunfire, also in Southeast. While the boy was, fortunately, only grazed by a bullet, the man was seriously injured and taken to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery. His condition was not immediately clear.

On Tuesday morning, five people, including a 13-year-old boy, were shot and wounded on Alabama Avenue in Southeast, while standing outside a convenience store. It appears that while the victims sustained injuries, none of them were considered life-threatening.

In recent interviews with our reporters, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Contee expressed frustration over the surge of shootings and the rising number of homicides in the District — now up 13 percent over the same time last year which ended with a 16-year high.

Contee seems to be optimistic that recent initiatives, most notably Mayor Bowser’s Building Blocks DC, which directs resources on the 2 percent of city blocks where more than 40 percent of shootings occur, and other programs which call for a public health approach to fighting crime, will make a difference. Still, that remains to be seen.

But rather than employing the loaded and often controversial term of “Black-on-Black crime” to identify the various perpetrators and to perhaps explain the irrational motivations for their criminal acts, Contee says without hesitation that some criminals simply need to be removed from public life.

“You can’t program your way out of some things; you can’t police your way out of them,” the chief told a Washington Post reporter earlier this week. “You’ve got to hold people accountable, who are not ready to be in community, when they come out and commit these brazen acts.”

Ironically, while white conservatives have tended to latch on to the phrase Black-on-Black crime as a means of supporting the false notion that Black people have inherent, collective proclivities to commit crime against other Blacks, the term’s earliest modern references came from the Black media as seen in a 1979 feature in Ebony magazine.

“Although the Black community is not responsible for the external conditions that systematically create breeding grounds for crime, the community has the responsibility of doing what it can to attack the problem from within,” the article from the August 1979 issue read.

We believe that the writer of the article was on to something.

Nothing can be gained by more Blacks putting “Black Lives Matter” flags outside of their homes or wearing similarly-themed T-shirts.

The real answer may lie in our willingness to say, “Enough is enough,” with residents of all ages locking arms and standing firm against a minority of those who have little regard for human life. It won’t be easy and it could be dangerous. But what else can be done?

This is our community. These are our children, our hardworking parents and our seniors. And yes, even our female security guards simply trying to do their job and keep our streets safe.

We have a right to live — both in Southeast and in any other part of the District we desire. Somehow, we must find ways to claim that right.

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