A Message on Where I Stand on Public Safety in Ward 1
Any crime in our community is upsetting, but the violence we have seen over the past several weeks is extremely distressing. I know firsthand how terrifying it can be when violent crime occurs in proximity to you, your children, and your neighbors. I pledge to use my role as your Councilmember to support effective tools to end community violence. In doing so, I don’t want to govern from a place of fear—rather, my work focuses on finding proactive solutions for oversight, enforcement, and enhancement of services so that we can all understand the tools we have at our disposal. This message is to better inform you of what I and others in the District government are doing.
All of us in government, along with our community partners, are working together to address crime day-to-day and also from a deeper, public health approach. We each play different roles when it comes to public safety. That includes me, your Councilmember, as a legislator and advocate for the community. There are many different government entities that are involved with public safety, including your Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, the Attorney General, and the U.S. Attorney. Here’s more information about my work on public safety and the role that our police department and other human services agencies play:
I have had a strong focus on public safety since I first entered office in 2015, just as a crime wave was emerging after several years of downward trends. Upon taking office I learned that gang violence prevention funding had been stripped away from Ward 1 and immediately fought to secure $250,000 for youth-serving organizations to do gang prevention and intervention in our schools and in our neighborhoods.
I have convened public safety walks, a training for neighborhood watch captains, and a major annual public safety event(this year happening on April 30) that brings together community members, the police, and District agencies that offer substance abuse and mental health interventions.
I co-introduced and voted for the NEAR Act, a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that addresses community violence with a public health approach. The NEAR Act is now fully funded and I continue to track its implementation closely. A summary of the provisions of the NEAR Act and their implementation status was recently released.
I introduced, passed and funded the Street Harassment Prevention Act of 2017, which officially defines street harassment, creates an advisory committee to develop policies, guidelines and procedures to educate District employees to identify and address street harassment, administers funding for street harassment awareness programs aimed at areas that are high risk, and conducts a survey to collect data to better understand the pervasiveness of street harassment in the District.
I introduced and passed the Extreme Risk Civil Protection Act, the District’s “red flag” law, which reduces gun violence in the District by giving residents and police more tools to reduce access to firearms by those who are a risk to themselves or others.
I introduced the Alimony Justice for Injured Spouses Amendment Act of 2018or "Elaine's Law" to protect spouses from having to pay alimony, legal fees and other spousal support to their abusersin divorce proceedings.
I voted for budgets that increase funding for the Metropolitan Police Department, move forward with the officer body camera rollout, and add new officers.
In addition to these larger policy initiatives, day-to-day I also:
- Communicate with MPD commanders and Chief Newsham about ongoing issues
- Recommend to the Mayor, MPD, and other agencies that attention be given to certain problems/parts of Ward 1
- Use community voices and observation of trends to inform decisions about where to allocate funding
- Use my role as chair of the Council’s Human Services Committee to improve our programs and agencies that help people find a path out of violence
Metropolitan Police Department
MPD, as you might expect, is on the front lines of public safety work in the most traditional sense. Uniformed MPD officers patrol our neighborhoods on foot, Segways, bicycles and by car every day. Undercover officers work in our community to address drug activity and other persistent issues. Over the past several years, MPD has had a strong focus on recovering illegal weapons to help prevent gun crimes. MPD Commanders and Captains analyze crime data to determine where to deploy officers and when there is an increase of crime, they increase police presence accordingly. They have done this in response to recent incidents.
Ward 1 is part of both the Thirdand FourthDistricts. Each District has its own Police Service Areas (PSAs). PSAs regularly meet to engage with the community on issues of public safety. Each District also has its own listserv with daily crime updates: Third Districtand Fourth District.
I’m grateful to 3D Commander Emerman and 4D Commander Griffin for their partnership every day in addressing crime in our communities. As a legislator, my focus is on ensuring MPD has the funding and resources they need, and I’ve voted for budgets that increased MPD funding, established the body worn camera program, and added new officers.
Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement
As your Councilmember, I was proud to vote to create the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) as part of the NEAR Act comprehensive criminal justice reform. I support the work of our MPD officers in Ward 1, but they can’t do it all. ONSE, led by former Ward 1 leader Delbert McFadden, runs several community-based programs that seek to be part of a larger solution to crime in our communities.
The Safer Stronger Community Partnerships Office brings vital District government services and community-based resources to communities to address violence before it starts. The Community Stabilization Division within the ONSE provides wrap-around services to victims of violent crimes and their families. The Pathways Program aims to decrease criminal justice involvement and improve the outcomes of those most likely to be the victim or perpetrator of a violent crime.
Health and Human Services
Despite being a prosperous city, many of our neighbors are living in poverty. Some are also experiencing homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, or all of the above. For these situations, rather than engaging police, we turn to our health and human services agencies. The Homeless Outreach Program and the Mobile Crisis Unit each serve hundreds of individuals in the ward annually through their street outreach teams.
As Councilmember I chair the Human Services Committee and also sit on the Health Committee. I’ve pushed for additional resources for these programs each year in our Council budget. In next year’s budget the Mayor proposed a complete cut of the Homeless Outreach Program that has served hundreds of people in our ward. I am working now as committee chair to replace that funding and ensure there is no interruption in service to our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
Violence in Ward 1
One of the things that makes Ward 1 so distinctive is that it’s so compact, with residents and commercial corridors, schools, parks and playgrounds all tightly packed into a small area. That also means that when violence occurs anywhere in Ward 1, it is occurring near these spaces we consider to be sacred. That, of course, adds gravity to what we’ve been experiencing. As a parent myself, I understand very clearly the fear of violence happening near a school, daycare or park. None of it is acceptable, and I’ll keep doing everything within my power to reduce it.
Ward 1 is the most diverse ward in the District, and I represent all of its residents. Some have called me naïve for acknowledging the fact that different segments of our population experience police interaction in different ways. As the Ward 1 representative, I believe it’s part of my job to hold MPD to the highest standards to ensure all residents feel respected, which is why I recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post asking MPD to end practices that damage community trust. It’s entirely possible to hold this view while ensuring MPD has the resources they need to do the important work of addressing crime.
The violent crime we are grappling with now is a result of generations of hurtful policies that perpetuated racism and inequality. We will not solve our problems now by doubling down on those policies. They are clearly not working. However, undoing these policies doesn’t happen overnight. I believe that addressing the root causes of crime is what will ultimately lift us out of it.
I know that properly resourcing our police force is required to address crime, and as Councilmember, I have supported funding MPD and I am in regular communication with Ward 1’s MPD Commanders. But I also believe in the evidence-based public health models already being enacted across the country that are getting results. Many of these policies are being enacted now, albeit slowly, here in DC as part of the NEAR Act. I hope you’ll join me in calling on the Mayor and MPD to fully implement the NEAR Act so that we can create lasting solutions to crime, rather than fighting the uphill battle in which we are currently embroiled.
All of this is to say, I’m with you and will keep pushing.