D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) says he’s grown tired of attending funerals and seeing so many of his constituents fall victim to gun violence.
And during the recent Mayor-Council Breakfast hosted by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), the first of her second term, he stated his displeasure for her continued assertion that the District has become a safer place to live under her watch.
“This city’s not getting any safer,” White said during the event held at the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest, Monday, Jan. 29.
The Mayor-Council Breakfast occurs the last Tuesday of the month from September through June during which mayor, Administration officials and D.C. Council members convene to discuss the most pressing issues facing the city – in this case how Bowser plans to reduce violent crime in the District.
The sudden, deadly spike in homicides has captured everyone’s attention following the recent triple-shooting deaths of Sean Shuler and Havon Abney, both 26, and Tyrik Hagood, 24, which happened last weekend in the Fort Davis section of Ward 7.
And while the perpetrators of the crime remain at-large, White points to the disproportionate number of homicides that have occurred in Ward 8 within the last two years as the cause of his ire and the reason he did not mince words.
“It seems like this city is becoming like a Third World country like Iraq,” White said. “We don’t take public safety seriously.”
Bowser called on Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue to share the city’s program, “A Road Map to Reducing Homicide,” that has been credited with reducing violent crimes which include robbery and aggravated and sexual assault in 2018 – 300 less than during 2017. Still, he acknowledged an increase in the homicide rate, saying, “2018 was a bad year and it looks like this year could be even worse.”
In 2018, the District recorded 160 homicides, a 38 percent increase from 2017 that posted 116. So far this year, there have been 18 murders, eight more than had taken place the same time last year.
Donahue could not identify any particular reasons for the two-year surge but said daytime shootings and close-range killings may be one explanation. He cited an increase in petty arguments as a potential factor as well as domestic violence incidents, robberies and retaliations.
Donahue added that the Bowser administration has “no single magic program” to address the rise in homicides but pointed to 17 agencies and 81 projects collectively working toward finding solutions.
White noted that the District government has invested $750,000 in crime prevention efforts but referred to the influx of capital as “a drop in the bucket.”
“Ward 8 is [facing] a state of emergency,” he said looking directly at Bowser. “We have had eight children who have been shot within the last five months.”
White bemoaned the reduction in community outreach workers who deal with troubled youth and individuals, noting that while only 30 citizens now lead such efforts, at one point that number had risen to 150 District employees.
“We need violence interveners to be in the schools and in the community more,” he said agreeing that the police cannot shoulder the burden alone.
“The onus is on the community, too; more guys are carrying guns,” he said.
He advised the mayor to consider gun detection technology to which the mayor agreed to review.
Other council members weighed in on the discussion with Anita Bonds (D-At Large) questioning whether the administration would commit a larger sum of money, floating an amount of $100 million, to fight crime. Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) encouraged coordination on the issue with the D.C. Attorney General. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) said his office supports a holistic/public health approach to crime in general instead of instant incarceration.
Delia Houseal represents the Fort Davis area as an advisory neighborhood commissioner [ANC] and supported the police department’s strategy to handling the recent homicides.
“The police’s actions were totally appropriate in my opinion,” said Houseal, ANC chairperson. “They showed up in quick fashion and sealed off the scene. I think they’re committed to solving this crime in a timely manner.”
Nevertheless, she agrees with White on the necessity of sharing the responsibility for fighting crime.
“The community needs to do more to report these crimes,” she said. “We know who the bad folks are.”