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In addition to the Safer, Stronger DC legislation, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a mayoral order directing deputy mayors and District agencies to submit recommendations for a holistic approach to violent crime.
She hinted at further investing in violence intervention programs, revisiting school disciplinary policies, providing alternatives for families of potential crime victims, and facilitating second-chance employment via the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure.
Anwar Saleem, in his 17th year as executive director of H Street Main Street, continues to request that District officials place a cap on the number of smoke shops that are allowed to open up along the H Street corridor — a hotbed of violent crime.
“I testified to the council about this with no response,” Saleem said.
There are currently 22 smoke shops operating along H Street, from the H Street bridge all the way to 13th Street.
Saleem told the Informer that advisory neighborhood commissions, in their eagerness to fill vacant buildings, often pressure the Department of Buildings to cite landlords who own vacant commercial properties.
In turn, many landlords accept vendors of smoke products as tenants to avoid paying higher property taxes on vacant buildings. Saleem said offenders gravitate toward areas with a high concentration of Initiative 71 stores to harm patrons who are likely carrying cash.
That’s why Saleem has set his sights on working with building owners on H Street to secure long-term leasing contracts. However, he said the District doesn’t allow H Street Main Street enough time to produce results.
“The Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration is taking too long to deal with the gray area. The judiciary system is also taking too long,” Saleem said. “This should be a priority while we’re waiting on crime to drop. H Street is a case study.”
Hours after introducing Bowser at Atlas on Monday, Saleem led an emergency meeting with dozens of business and property owners. At the meeting, participants discussed violent crime and other pressing issues with representatives of the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services, Department of Behavioral Health, the Department of Human Services and MPD.
In espousing his support for the Safer, Stronger DC legislation, Saleem said that Bowser is taking the steps necessary to hold offenders accountable.
“When we allow young people to do simple things, like jumping over Metro [turnstiles], it sends the wrong message,” he added. “They are smart enough to listen to what legislators are doing. They understand they can get away with things. There’s not enough accountability for young people in the judiciary system and household.”