D.C. Council member Kenyon McDuffie addresses the media before the start of his Community Sleep Out for Peace, Solidarity, Solutions and Walk in northeast Washington. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)
D.C. Council member Kenyon McDuffie addresses the media before the start of his Community Sleep Out for Peace, Solidarity, Solutions and Walk in northeast Washington. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)

The top gripes among Ward 5 residents are varied: lack of zoned parking for churchgoers, noisy and obtrusive construction projects, traffic safety, etc.

But some say their safety concerns are a matter of life and death, as violent crime has become a norm in their neighborhood.

“All of Ward 5 is not created equal,” said Charles Jones, 63, a lifelong resident of the ward.

Jones said “it was like day and night” when he moved 15 years ago from his childhood neighborhood of Michigan Park in the ward to Brentwood. He said crime immediately became a concern of his and that shootings happen so regularly he is not always immediately alarmed by the sound of gunshots.

“How many people will have to die before this is considered a problem?” Jones said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser highlighted reductions in crime in the city at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B meeting last week. Asked why there isn’t a more constant police presence in the some of the ward’s tougher neighborhoods, Bowser said the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department relied on tactics “set to work for [the] city for years.”

D.C. police said their “deployment strategy and allocation of resources primary focusses on violent crime,” in the Ward 5, though no specific tactics were given.

Less than a half-hour before the fatal August midday shooting of 17-year-old Jamahri Sydnor in her car by a stray bullet near the Brookland Manor community, a resident of the complex made a 911 call to report a group of men attempting to shoot at one another.

Though when police arrived they found nothing, the caller, who will remain anonymous, said shootings happen to often in the area.

A string of tragic murders has taken place in the ward in recent months, but neighbors say the shooting is almost constant, even when no one dies.

The District has seen 84 homicides this so far, this year, including 62 shooting deaths, with 37 of the city’s homicides taking place in the Southeast quadrant and 32 taking place in the Northeast quadrant, where much of Ward 5 lies.

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie wants his residents to “reclaim the community.”

He said the culture of gun violence in the city’s neighborhoods is a problem and that the community needs to come up with “innovative solutions” to tackle the issue.

“Let’s resist the temptation to do what we know is not going to solve the problem. You cannot lock your way out of this problem. You cannot arrest your way out of this problem,” McDuffie said.

He said residents and neighborhood organizations must work with government to restore safety in their communities.

Ahead of a peace walk and sleepout, he held, McDuffie added a feature to his website where residents are encouraged to share their ideas, organizational affiliations and resources.

Participants marched through the streets of Edgewood, Brookland and Brentwood, near the sites of recent fatal shootings including those of Syndor and Robert Lee Arthur Jr., 18. It ended in a Brentwood park near the site of 16-year-old Zaire Kelly’s fatal shooting in an attempted robbery and the fatal stabbing of his alleged attacker, Sequan Gillis, 19.

Following the walk, McDuffie led a conversation in which he asked the community to generate solutions that will drive his ongoing efforts to address the issue of violence in Ward 5 communities.

“I don’t want to presume that I know, as a legislator, what’s best for the community,” McDuffie said.

He said he wants a community-driven process.

Kenneth Ward, executive director of College Bound, the college prep program that Kelly attended, said adults should give back to their communities in “a meaningful way” such as volunteering or mentoring at-risk youth, even when they feel that their own children are safe.

High school students in the ward have been attacked around the Rhode Island Ave-Brentwood Metro Station, with the incidents occurring so regularly that some parents have elected to keep their children home from school.

“This is not about your child — this about the children that your child rides the Metro with, this is about the children who will be in the movie theater with your child,” he said. “We have to ensure that the same opportunities that people move to the nation’s capital for don’t escape the children who are born into the city.”

Tony Lewis Jr., a community leader, said only collective efforts will solve the problem and that it extended beyond boundaries of race, age and politics.

“This is our problem as resident of the District of Columbia,” Lewis said. “It’s going to take all of us to make our young people safe, to make our community safe.”

Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her...

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