As we head into summer and work to reemerge from the pandemic, I wanted to touch base on public safety in our community.
Across the country, violent crime is spiking. Public safety has been an issue that Ward 1 has been grappling with for decades, so I know that when we see any spike, we all get really concerned. People are really struggling and we are seeing the effects in our neighborhoods.
Over the last week, we’ve seen several instances of gun violence. Any time a serious crime happens in our ward, I receive a call, text, or email immediately from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). This sets into motion an immediate response from my office and our government partners – including the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, our violence interrupters, and the Office of Victim Services. I also work with the Mayor’s community team members (MOCRS), Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and neighbors to contact the family of any victims.
I work directly with community members to understand what happened, how, and who was involved so that we can work to prevent any retaliation or interrupt a future conflict. This work is incredibly important because we are trying to get people to stop picking up guns or resorting to violence to resolve an issue. This work also helps inform where we need additional resources. I recently pushed the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement to add additional violence interrupters in an area where we were seeing an increase in activity. It is almost impossible to get this type of funding outside of the budget cycle, but I pushed the agencies. The violence interrupters have already been engaging with the community.
A few months ago, Mayor Bowser announced a new comprehensive gun violence prevention program called Building Blocks DC. It is a place-based, data-driven approach that uses comprehensive block-by-block analysis to pinpoint specific areas where gun violence is regularly happening. The program will establish a gun violence prevention emergency operations center and create a process for agencies to respond to epicenters of violence. I have requested that several blocks in Ward 1 be added to the new prevention program expeditiously, as the rollout has been focused in Ward 8. The District’s first Gun Violence Prevention Director, Linda Harlee Harper is leading the program's effort. She shares our community’s concern about the gun violence we are seeing, particularly in Columbia Heights, so I’ve invited her and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Chris Geldart to join me for a community meeting in the ward. We’re working out the details and hope to share the date, time, and location in the very near future.
I understand that we have some members of the community who ask why we can’t arrest those who commit a violent act. Well, we do. MPD continues to patrol, investigate, and arrest. Their presence has deterred certain crimes, however, we’ve seen several instances where MPD is present on a block and a person still commits a crime. This is because violent crimes tend to be crimes of passion, and it’s why I remain focused on using evidence-based approaches to reduce violence by reducing the conflicts. It requires partnerships across agencies and community support. We need police patrols to help deter certain crimes and deep interventions and community-based work to help address the gun violence. We also have to continue enacting reforms that protect our most vulnerable from police violence to help heal our community. Last week marked one year since the killing of George Floyd. Many of us have reaffirmed our commitment to fight for racial justice – and that also means recognizing and understanding that for many members of our community, safety can have a different definition that does not include the desire for more police presence.
In addition to the work we are doing to immediately respond and the partnerships involved, there are more public safety investments on the way. The Mayor has announced a $193 million investment to reduce gun violence in the Fiscal Year 22 proposed budget. The investment includes:
These investments can help us by providing more boots on the ground in Ward 1 and providing assistance and opportunities for those who may be involved in crime. The budget proposal was only released yesterday, so I am continuing to review it.
As I worked to represent all residents of Ward 1, I will continue to push for legislation and investments that will make our community safer for everyone. I’ve worked to direct our investments into people and community resources each budget cycle and introduced legislation to get guns off our streets. I hope I can count on you to show up for your community. There are a few events coming up next week -
I’ll be in touch with information about the event with Gun Violence Prevention Director Linda Harlee Harper and Deputy Mayor Chris Geldart.
Brianne K. Nadeau