A message on public safety before the long weekend
Having been in contact with many of you about recent violence in Columbia Heights, I wanted to reach out prior to the weekend with information about what our public safety agencies and I have done so far, what we are doing in preparation for the long weekend, and to provide answers to some frequently asked questions.
I’ll also be at the regularly scheduled Third District CAC Meeting tonight at 7pm at MPD 3rdDistrict Headquarters, 1620 V Street, NW, which is open to all.
Let me start by saying that everyone in government from the Mayor and Attorney General down to the ANC, is focused on ending the violence in Columbia Heights right now. I know that, because I’ve personally been speaking with them to ensure that every resource is brought to this situation. Like you, I am incredibly concerned about the violence in this area. I’ve been working with all of our agencies and community partners to ensure they’re deploying all the tools at our disposal.
What is happening in our community right now?
MPD and our violence interrupters have identified neighborhood feuds, internal neighborhood disputes, petty disputes between people, and drug related incidents as the causes of the violence in Columbia Heights right now.
Curbing the prevalence of illegal guns on our streets is critical to ensuring these conflicts are not violent, which is why MPD is focusing so much of its effort on removing them, and why I've worked to strengthen our lawsto get more guns off the streets.
What are the police doing?
Commander Emerman, who leads the police district covering the area, will continue MPD’s enhanced presence in the area, which includes a marked and unmarked presence and an emphasis on removing illegal guns from the streets. The Narcotics and Special Investigations Division (NSID) and Gun Recovery Unit will continue to be present gathering intelligence and making arrests, as they have been over the past week. He and his team share the concern about the recent gun violence and have made several arrests in recent cases. But the police cannot do this alone, and are not equipped to do all the work needed to end the violence.
What are we doing to end the violence?
In Ward 1, the group that does violence interruption work is Collaborative Solutions. They have been doing this work in Ward 1 for decades, so they know all the history of the various crews and gangs and know who's who within them. It's this knowledge and these relationships that allow them to mediate conflicts, and ultimately end them before they become violent or start another cycle of violence and retaliation. Check out what they say about their evidence-based work.
The NEAR Act, the District’s comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that addresses community violence with a public health approach, formalized these violence interruption programs across the District (along with many other programs).
Why focus on long-term solutions when we need action now?
Violence interruption is actually an immediate intervention with long-term results. This work is one of the only lasting solutions we have had to this type of crime.
WUSA9 recently reported on the work that Violence Interrupters have been doing in the District and those that are direct victims of day-to-day violence. I think it does a good job of explaining violence interrupter work.
Where can I learn more?
- Earlier this year, I sent a full public safety update with details about legislation I’ve passed to make our streets safer, funding I’ve secured to reduce violence, and more about the agencies working to keep our community safe.
- MPD posts regular updates for the 3rdDistrictand 4thDistricton its listservs.
- If you’d like to participate in the District’s security camera rebate program, click here.
But what are you actually DOING, as Councilmember?
My job as Councilmember is ensuring Ward 1 has all the resources it needs, and while I wish I personally could end the violence, the most important thing for our community is that I support those who can. Together with the Mayor, Attorney General, and other government leaders, we are bringing all available resources to Ward 1, as described above.
I hope some of you will be able to attend the meeting tonight so we can discuss these issues in person. I’m grateful to those who were able to attend my annual public safety meeting last month as well, where we began this work. Here’s a link to the opening remarks from that meeting.