CommunityShevry Lassiter

Spike in Violence Leads to Community Organizing, Government Response in D.C.

Hundreds of concerned D.C. residents gathered in the backyard of a Southeast retail store on Memorial Day to brainstorm ways to eliminate gun violence in the District, particularly in Southeast, after one of the most violent weekends in the city this year.

During the Memorial Day weekend, four people died and even were more wounded in 10 different shooting incidents throughout the city.

Councilman Trayon White (D-Ward 8) called an emergency planning session to address a spike in crime in Ward 8, and fellow Council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Robert White (D-At Large), Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) joined other city leaders and hundreds of residents to discuss ways to alleviate the recent spike in crime.

Now District leaders are responding.

“I am happy to announce that our call to action has not fallen on deaf ears,” White said. “It’s our primary goal to empower and offer resources to the experts who have been working tirelessly for years to combat crime.”

The day after the community meeting, the Council moved to make additional investments in the final vote on the upcoming year’s budget after delaying the vote more than an hour to identify the right places to increase support.

The mother of Alexander Mosby, the young entrepreneur killed over the Memorial Day weekend, speaks during a June 1 anti-violence vigil in D.C. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Ultimately, the Council decided to add $340,000 to the budget for a new violence prevention project to be implemented this summer through the office of the D.C. attorney general.

Most of the shootings that took place over the three-day holiday weekend happened in Wards 7 and 8. So far this year, Ward 8 has had nearly half of the city’s homicides with more than 30.

Community activist and entrepreneur Alexander Mosby was fatally shot Saturday in the sixth shooting of the weekend. In another incident, a couple was killed after a dispute between families, leaving their five children without parents.

Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mike Austin began an online campaign for a resolution to reopen the enrollment period for the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment program for 30 extra days.

“I’m not sure if this idea will work, but I do know that, among other factors, there is some correlation between lack of employment and crime,” Austin wrote. “I know there are a lot of youth who didn’t previously enroll for whatever reason.”

But police attribute the spike in violence to petty disputes and the presence of illegal firearms.

Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered departments to respond across the city, including check-ins with juveniles in the youth rehabilitation programs and parolees.

She and Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham also deployed nearly 25 percent more officers in the 6th and 7th Police Districts, including for the evening and overnight shifts, Narcotics and Special Investigation Division as well as increased helicopter patrols.

“While an enhanced police presence can help keep residents safe, we know that policing alone will not put a permanent stop to the violence in our communities,” Bowser said. “We ask residents to partner with us by reporting any criminal activity and send a clear message violence will not be tolerated.”

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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