D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) rallied with members of the community Thursday to bring attention to an uptick of violent crime in the neighborhoods of his community following the shooting death of a 15-year-old high school student.
Jaylyn Wheeler, a freshman at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast, was fatally shot Wednesday in the 600 block of Alabama Avenue near Democracy Prep School. Police are looking for three suspects who reportedly were wearing what appeared to be school uniforms.
Jaylyn became the second teenager fatally shot in the city that week and the sixth person murdered in the city between the ages of 14 and 17. He also became the 28th homicide in Ward 8 this year.
So far, the District has seen an increase in total homicides compared to last year. This time last year the city had a total of 39 homicides compared to 56 this year.
“This is happening far too often in our community,” White said. “We need to urgently make a change and find a way to help our young men and women before we lose more bright and promising minds to the tragic and unnecessary violence that impacted [Jaylyn] as he left school for home on Wednesday afternoon.”
He said the Ward 8 community has seen nearly a shooting a day for the past two weeks and called on members of the community to help address the issue.
Following a press conference held earlier in the day, White and other adults in the community organized a safe passage walk to escort students home on their way from school.
“If this were happening anywhere else in the city, the Council would be here, the mayor would be out here,” White said. “It seems to me that when it is a Black boy or a Black girl, nobody cares. [Ward 8] has the most youth out of any ward in Washington, D.C., but the least amount of resources.”
Metropolitan Police Department Cmdr. Chanel Dickerson said the police already have a safe passage route, but Jaylyn, who was in an alley, was outside of the route.
“We have to recognize the root cause that encourages a young person to pick up a gun and point it at someone,” Dickerson said.
Others echoed White’s sentiments.
“We have council members holding press conferences about building dog parks,” said Ronald Moten, longtime violence prevention activist and Ward 8 community member. “Clearly we have blurred vision on what our priorities are.”
Moten said the solution to violence in the community called for investments, a strategic plan and a core team trained in violence prevention tactics.
April Goggans, an organizer with Black Lives Matter, said there are solutions, but it’s a matter of “holding people accountable for what they’ve already promised to do.”
Goggans cited full implementation of the city’s Neighborhood Engagement Achieve Results (NEAR) Act, a comprehensive bill that seeks to address violence prevention from a public health standpoint, as one tool the city could use to fight crime. She also noted the need for more accountably within the police department to investigate gun trafficking following the recent sentencing of former MPD Officer Richard S. Wince, 51, for trafficking black-market firearms without a license that resulted in at least one murder and one suicide.
“There’s no one group or one solution that is going to change everything,” Goggans said. “We have to support everybody trying.”