June 29, 2016 | Blog

Addressing Public Safety in Columbia Heights - Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau

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2015-08-11_18.11.28_(150x113).jpgWithin you’ll find the Op-Ed I wrote in the Washington Post calling on Congress to address gun violence in our local communities. Unfortunately you may have seen that instead of doing that, we actually now have Members of Congress talking about rolling back restrictions on our concealed carry prohibition in DC. Which is obviously outrageous. We’re not some petri dish for their backward ideas. Real people have to live here.

When I first took office, it quickly became clear that we have challenges in Columbia Heights. I received complaints regularly about trash, loitering, drugs, alcohol, homelessness and other crime. So I worked with MPD, I brought out the Mayor and the Chief of Police, and I kept pushing to deploy resources to the area. We deployed mobile addiction services, we sent homeless outreach services, and we tried every resource we could think of.

I soon came to believe that we needed a real game change, because while we have a substantial number of police in the area and we can deploy human services as needed, we have a special confluence of issues in Columbia Heights. And so, I became determined that two programs that have been successful in other parts of the Ward could also help Columbia Heights.

First, a Main Street Program, which will bring together businesses, non-profits, residents and other leaders to create positive activities and welcome spaces in the area. Second, a Clean Team, which will provide jobs for people like those in our community who have barriers to employment, will keep our area clean, and will enhance safety by being present in public space and diffusing unsafe situations.

And here is the good news: In the most recent budget I secured funding for a Main Street program and a Clean Team in Columbia Heights.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

Clean Teams:

  • A dedicated team to help keep the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza (Robert L. Moore Plaza) clean. Also the Columbia Heights Metro surface area.
  • A team trained in effective public safety measures that can help diffuse situations and can call for supportive services if needed – whether that’s addiction services or police or similar.
  • Another set of eyes and ears on the street that are taking active ownership for improving the conditions of the neighborhood.
  • Locally hired workers (this is common practice) who are familiar with the area and the population, and provide unique assistance in this regard. This is also an opportunity to help returning citizens.

Main Streets Program:

  • A dedicated full time organization that is always thinking about how to make sure businesses in the corridor are a success and that serves as their advocate.
  • Technical assistance for existing and new businesses – accessing resources and programs, helping to get the proper certifications in the District. Cutting through the red tape.
  • “Placemaking” activities that define the neighborhood and make it feel like a destination (Shaw Mains Streets does this well) – for example signage that unifies the look of the area. Additionally, creating programming like concerts or movie nights or community events, to bring people to a particular place and draw attention to the area.

The DC Department of Small and Local Business Development will send out solicitations for organizations to apply to run the programs very soon. Funds will be available when the new fiscal year starts, which is October.

I think this is going to make a huge difference. They will help keep the neighborhoods attractive to visitors and small businesses and will help improve public safety by keeping the business corridors orderly and well maintained.

I am also continuing to address public safety in other ways:

  • With my support, the Council’s recently passed budget includes increased funding for the Metropolitan Police Department to add 60 new officers and continue moving forward with the body camera rollout.
  • I also supported funding in the budget for youth programs year-round including enhanced funding for programs to support at-risk youth and youth involved with the justice system.
  • I voted for a rebate program to help pay for private security cameras that can be used by MPD in their investigations of crime.
  • The budget addresses street harassment, a public safety issue. At my request the D.C. Council held its first-ever hearing dedicated solely to the subject of street harassment last year.
  • The budget directs the Office of Women’s Policy and Initiatives to collect data on the issue for the first time, which helps us create a plan to end street harassment. They will also educate students on the issue.

As Councilmember, I’ve focused on ensuring MPD has all the resources they need to do the work on the ground. We work in partnership, because of course we have very different roles in addressing crime. But working together every day, connecting residents directly with the officers that serve their neighborhoods, and ensuring clear communication among us all is what has always moved us through tough periods in the District and it’s what will get us through now.

I’ll continue to be out in the community talking with people about their concerns. I’ll continue to focus on the persistent issues so that we can change the outcomes, and I’ll keep bringing resources to the Ward so that we can accomplish all the goals before us.


Brianne K. Nadeau

DC Councilmember, Ward 1