Violence in the District
By C.N. Staff Writer
This summer the District of Columbia has seen violence on a steady rise. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Police Chief Cathy Lanier have not been able to consistently pinpoint the rise in crime. In press conferences over the summer months, Lanier has suggested that the rise could possibly be related to an increase in synthetic drug usage, a trend the District is also battling with this summer, illegal guns and more recently repeat offenders.
No matter, what the actual cause may be, residents have expressed concern and others outrage at the rise. During the month of August, the District saw its homicide number jump to 101, with nine shootings occurring in eight days in the last two weeks of the month. At community meetings residents are crying out for lost loved ones and crying out for help. Donna Richardson, a ward 8 resident said, “My concern is the policing. I see an abundance of police when I travel in other parts of the city and ironically the abundance is in areas where the crime is low. Why don’t we see the same abundance in Ward 8?”
Richardson is just one of many who don’t understand the new tactics Lanier has rolled out over the summer. Critics of Lanier, including the DC Police Union, have stated that her redeployment of police resources have resulted in the rise in crime, however, Lanier defends her tactics saying at a August press conference that every new program takes time. The Union and some residents are speaking about her decision to do away with the vice units that focused heavily on drug offenders. She has consolidated the units and is now focusing those officers on drug organizations to take down the distribution of drugs into the city. She said she’s seen progress in the short time of the redeployment.
However, that still is no answer to the looming questions about what will happen as a result of the rise in crime. Along, with the homicides are accidental shootings of innocent bystanders. This year the city has seen a graduate student killed at a Metro stop, a journalist killed at a bus stop and a mother killed as a result of shootings. Not withstanding the bystanders, there is also a rise in the city’s armed robberies. In late August an armed robbery was reported with two youth, ages eight and thirteen as the suspects, robbing another teenager.
How are the guns coming into the city. Lanier says ‘source states’ like Maryland and Virginia are easy access points for the illegal guns. She also said that the city is seeing a rise in high volume magazines enter the city like never before. She and Mayor Bowser announced an increase to $2,500 in exchange for illegal guns.
Bowser has said that her public safety officials will put together new programs to address this over 30 percent jump in crime. She’s asked for more resources to be allocated to increase job training programs, recreational activities and social services to get young, unemployed residents out of harm’s way.
The District’s Council is also speaking about. Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) has said he’s not been pleased with the Mayor’s answer to the rise in crime and cites her and Lanier’s changing causes as a part of the problem. Chairman of the public safety committee Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5-D) said he wants to see the city work with the community to come up with the best solution to combat the growing uptick in crime.
The District is not the only major city that has seen a rise in crime. In May Chief Lanier met with the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) and reported that other cities like Chicago, Houston and New York are experiencing the same struggles and have yet to properly identify the cause of the rise.