Annual Ward 1 Public Safety Meeting
Posted on April 25, 2017 at 1:28 PM
Last week I held my annual Ward 1 public safety event to bring together the Metropolitan Police Department, youth serving organizations and neighbors before summer begins. The goal of the meeting was to make sure residents are connected to all that the DC government, its partners and I are doing in our community to keep them safe. We had more than 75 residents at the event, as well as Police Chief Peter Newsham and representatives from each of the Police Service Areas in Ward 1 which are divided between MPD’s 3rd and 4th Districts.
Below you’ll find highlights from the presentations, including how MPD is preparing for the summer, and questions from residents.
A couple of points to highlight:
- You can always call 911 to report anything that seems suspicious.
- Reach out to your local Police Sector Captain if there are ongoing issues, or you’d like to speak about crime in your immediate neighborhood.
- Each PSA has regular community meetings, typically monthly. Times are posted on community email discussion groups for the 3rd District and 4th District. The Third District Citizens Advisory Committee also meets once a month and welcomes new members. You can find more information at their website.
- Several ANCs also have public safety committees with meetings that are open to the public. Find your ANC here.
I am focused on ensuring Ward 1 neighborhoods are safe and secure. Everyone deserves to live in a community where they feel safe. Over a decade ago, my first community involvement was when I joined the Orange Hat Patrol with neighbors in the Meridian Hill Park area.
Now, as Councilmember, I work in partnership with MPD on the immediate response to crime when it happens to ensure they have the resources they need to keep residents safe. We can (and do) reach each other any time of day or night. I work to make sure MPD has the resources they need.
In my role, one of the things I can do is bring the community together around this issue. If you speak with residents who lived through the crime waves of the 80s and 90s, they’ll tell you that in many cases community coming together was the key to reducing violence. Neighbors created relationships with each other and in turn helped the police work effectively in community.
The Councilmember role is that of a legislator, which means I am also supporting laws that help keep Ward 1 safe I worked with other members of the Council to pass a budget that increased funding for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and helps fund the rollout of police body cameras to protect citizens and officers. In addition to adding 60 new MPD officers, the budget also provides funding for year-round programs to support at-risk youth and their families.
I also secured an additional $250,000 for gang violence prevention activities specifically in Ward 1, which has gone to local nonprofits working with youth. The aim of these programs is to help District youth avoid behavior that puts them at-risk and help create a safer environment for all District residents and families.
I also convened youth-serving organizations in Ward 1 last year to see how we can better support their services. This led to my bill that is creating the new Office of Youth Outcomes, which reforms how the District funds youth-serving programs so we’re focused on outcomes, not politics. Funding is more equitable and transparent while giving us more data about how we’re reaching our goals. This bill will create a more unified, goal-oriented funding process to make sure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively. It will improve wraparound services for our kids and after school enrichment activities.
I supported the creation of a program to provide rebates for private security cameras.
I am especially proud to have held the first-ever DC Council hearing on Street Harassment and introduced legislation introduced legislation to address the issue through education and culture change. Many of us—women in particular—have been subjected to this for far too long. It’s important to me that we address this as a community and make this kind of behavior unacceptable.
I also secured funding to create a Main Street program that covers Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, which will help keep the neighborhoods clean and attractive to residents, visitors and small businesses, which in turn helps reduce crime and create jobs. This coming budget I am also securing funding for a Main Street program along Georgia Avenue.
I try to always point out that when I say my goal is for all members of our community to feel safe, I am very mindful of the fact that Ward 1 is the most diverse ward in the District – whether we’re talking about race, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation and gender identity, or age. I know that as a white woman, my experience is different than the experience of many of my constituents.
Different communities are impacted differently by crime and policing. We have good data confirming that young people, members of the LGBTQ community, people from communities of color, and people from low-income communities experience more frequent and severe street harassment, for example.
Different segments of the population experience police interaction differently as well. It’s important to me that everyone is treated with respect. I’ve been in conversation with police about de-escalation techniques that they use, so that there is more safety for everyone in crowds, and in our nightlife corridors. The Chief and his officers have demonstrated their willingness to work with the community and the great turnout today is a testament to how much they value good relationships with the community they protect.
Again, this is another reason why building personal connections between neighbors is so important. Knowing local police officers and neighbors is one of the ways that we build trust and help keep neighborhoods safe.
Chief Peter Newsham, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Newsham emphasized how important it is to create relationships with the community and serve as partners. He presented a slide show with information about recent statistics. Slides showed population increasing in the District, calls for service going up, but response times for “priority 1 calls” going down. Violent crime is also going down. 2016 was lowest number of reported violent crimes in a decade. Also a reduction from 2015 when there was a spike in many cities but now in 2016 is lowered. Robberies, the largest category in violent crime in the city, is going down.
How is MPD doing this? According to Chief Newsham it is through several initiatives including recovering 1800 guns in 2016 (up 160 from the the previous year). Illegal firearms are one of the biggest problems. Many of the violent crimes are rooted in petty disputes. Mix in guns and it can be deadly.
MPD’s robbery intervention task force contributed to the 13% reduction in robberies in 2016. There are crime suppression teams in each District. If a pattern develops, the narcotics and special investigation unit comes in. Also an MPD officer is in the Metro command center now. Because of the security camera rebate there are lots of cameras around the District. Also prosecutors are part of the conversation so the cases get more attention.
MPD’s body worn camera program is one of the largest in the country. A level of transparency that other agencies don’t have. Our officers embraced it. Wanted community to see what they’re doing.
The latest budget allows for increasing cadets from 35 to 70 per year. Currently only 16% of officers live in DC, but 200 new recruits get a housing allowance to move to DC. They also have tuition reimbursement to make MPD more attractive.
Chief Groomes is retiring late April, so now her purview will be divided into two bureaus. MPD will be holding meetings to introduce the new chiefs.
MPD’s summer crime initiative has started. It identifies violent crime problem areas and brings additional resources. None of those targeted violent crime areas are in Ward 1.
Question from resident: There is a specific house in my neighborhood where there was a shooting and I believe there is criminal activity happening there. What can we do?
Chief Newsham: A home presents a problem because it can be difficult to determine if the owner or just residents are involved. If we have an address that seems to be creating a problem in the community we have to roll up our sleeves and work on them. We need specifics from the community in what you’re seeing. I can only speak generally, but if it is a consistent problem, it’s likely MPD is aware of it.
Question from resident: Someone who has broken into cars is dumping the items in the alley behind my house. I call 911.
Chief Newsham: If you call police for something like that we should have been there quicker and you did the right thing. Try to get as much of a description as you can. We started in 3D this year with an increase in theft from auto. Just as you described. A couple people typically target a neighborhood until the police target the area.
Question from resident: There is a group of intoxicated men in our neighborhood, regularly the same people. Also prostitution. How do you think we should deal with this issue and what can MPD do?
Chief: If there is a prostitution issue we have the narcotics division here to discuss it with you. One issue is that much of the street prostitution is people from out of DC so if they are arrested it is not a big penalty. If there is drug dealing we can target the police there and it makes the dealers very uncomfortable. Addressing intoxicated people is the most difficult as it can be hard to identify the crime. Sometimes it is an addiction issue and/or a mental health issue. Our police officers can make recommendations for the mental health agencies as they can be the best to address. If you don’t see a noticeable improvement please let us know.
The commanders spoke about how residents are all the eyes and ears of the community. Letting us know the information is key. We have worked to decrease the theft from auto. Chief was focused on that and really rode the Commanders on that. The video cameras are a big part of that, we are targeting it more, as well as public education reminding people: Don’t leave stuff in the car. Please don’t think “oh my neighbor is calling it in so I don’t have to.” On robberies, if we have a pattern of robberies we saturate the area with officers. Let us know if you see something, that’s how we reduce our crime numbers.
In 4D we’ve had great success in violent crime reduction. 4D had the largest crime reduction overall and a lot came from violent crime reduction. We focused on gun recovery, response to robbery. Please remember to call 911 THEN email your neighbors. Please give the best description you can. That helps us. Even if we don’t see them, they often get the message when they see us coming regularly. We just arrested three people off Ogden Street for selling illegal drugs. Property theft is what’s driving our crime now. Theft from auto and package theft. We often know the people, we need the evidence to arrest them. The cameras are so important. They are a lot better than the ones we have far in the air. We have great success with the video. Often officers know who the person is if they see the video. Please don’t leave stuff in your car (or leave your car running or leave the fob in your car).
Question from resident: How will new clean teams affect persistent problems of alcohol use/inebriation?
Councilmember: I will be calling a special meeting about the plaza. We need to bring all the resources we have to bear. We can’t just arrest them because they will be back out the next day and we want to solve the problem. We work with our mental health agencies to get them in the right locations and we have to be persistent.
Question from resident: What are those crime spot stations you move around?
Commanders: Cameras. We use them when there are problems. One is at 11th and Clifton now. We look at the crime patterns and move them as needed.
Question from resident: What’s being done this summer? Activities and jobs for the kids to keep them busy and active?
Commanders: We put things out on the listserv all summer with activities like ice cream socials, beat the streets, etc. We bring employment services folks to try to help people out and to show it’s a partnership with the community.
Commander Chanel Dickerson, Youth and Family Services Division (email@example.com)
Commander Dickerson spoke about how her division investigates sexual assaults against children, missing persons and process all youth arrests. They have several programs including the reaching new heights program which is about reducing at-risk behavior in youth, empowering them to make positive choices. There are 25 participants. They also have a summer initiative/youth academy. They have funding to support July 3-August 11. Ages 5-13 years old. They also have school projects, youth intervention and prevention unit addressing bullying and cyber crimes, youth violence and robbery, stranger danger. And a youth creating change program starting at age 15.
There has been a lot of attention recently on missing persons. In early January we started a social media push to include all missing persons. We are not minimizing the number, when one child is missing that is one child too many. We close about 99% of our missing persons cases. As of right now this year: 1,084 cases, 29 still open, 9 are critical juvenile cases, all have been reported missing more than 1 time. We are trying to establish prevention efforts through a Mayoral task force with CFSA and OVSG.
Alonzo Holloway, Roving Leaders Program, alonzo.Holloway@dc.gov
The Roving Leaders program at the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has been in existence 54 years. They work with kids in DPR recreation centers, do outreach in the community, in schools, and do home visits. Their goal is to point kids in the right direction. There are four Roving Leaders in Ward 1 (and 30 across the city). They work with MPD and other agencies to keep youth from committing crimes. Often they host events or do trainings in schools. During the summer they have a camp for youth 7-13 years old. Residents can make referrals to the Roving leader program.
Josue Salmeron, Collaborative Solutions for Communities, firstname.lastname@example.org
This group serving District families has been around 20 years and has developed a youth violence prevention program with MPD. The program targets youth affected by violence and aims to prevent retaliation, including gang violence. Their other work focuses on workforce development and returning citizens and families.
Question from resident: You have a lot of issues to work through with youth even with all you are offering. You still have a core group of youth that may not want to do right. How successful are the programs?
Commander Dickerson: We have great success, but not a lot of funding. All our kids are at-risk. 55 kids in two of the programs. We also feed them because sometimes that may be the only meal they get. It is difficult sometimes when the kids don’t behave. There are mental health issues, sexual abuse, we need to get to the root cause. And also wrap around services for the family because if they family is not supported sometimes the kid will slip back into that behavior.
Mr. Holloway: We talk to the kids too to find out their strengths and weaknesses and help them move in the right direction.
Question from resident: Shout out to Chief Newsham for supporting us at the women’s march this January. My question is how to help kids as young as elementary that are cutting school. Everything you are doing to target the kids isn’t working. Should you target the elementary schools too?
Commander Dickerson: We do have some officers going to the elementary schools. The task force is working on unifying the services so no matter what door you go through you are getting the same services.
Mr. Holloway: On Tues and Thurs we do self-esteem sessions with the kids and take them out in the community and take them to a new community to take them out of themselves a little. Help them see alternatives.
Councilmember: As Human Services Committee Chair I am working to support the social safety net. This includes a reform to the delivery of TANF, which helps support our most vulnerable residents. We have ACE and other programs with no wait list and high success rate.
Commander Robin Hoey, Narcotics and Special Investigations Division (email@example.com)
We are investigating drug offenses, as well as gun related crime and prostitution. Our criminal interdiction unit deploys to violent crime areas. Our human trafficking unit, street level prostitution unit is familiar with Ogden and Parkwood so I will pass along what has been shared in this meeting. We also have our gun recovery unit, which is a very passionate group, does a great job. Our narcotics unit, in operation a little under 2 years, has made 2,300 drug arrests, mostly distribution arrests. We were just on 14th and Meridian the other night making arrests.
In 2016 there were 110 distribution arrests in Ward 1 in 78 different locations. Many near 14th and Park area. We had 70 different operations. We’re looking to get felony distribution charges. So far in 2017: 19 arrests. We are deployed every day to arrest street level drug traffickers. Our major case unit covers more complex narcotics trafficking. Email checked every day: NSID.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also talk to any of your lieutenants
Chief Newsham: Our philosophy on drug sales has shifted. We used to have vice units and were getting a lot of use arrests (ie. users). We wanted to focus on distribution.
Question from resident: Is there a new drug being sold in Columbia Heights? We see lifeless bodies, paramedics being called.
Answer: With K2 we tend to see a spike in the summertime. Columbia Heights Metro is one of the spots we hit regularly for K2 sales. There is a lot of variation in that drug with additives and mixing with PCP. There are “street chemists” who mix their own K2 brands together and they all have bad effects, and often mixed with alcohol use too.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or my team. I can be reached at email@example.com or at (202) 724-8181. I look forward to working with you to keep Ward 1 safe. If you’d like notices about future events, please sign up for my emails at brianneknadeau.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
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