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Reviews | Behind DC’s Rise in Gun Crime: An Absence of Hope

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Ahead of a DC Council hearing in January 2020, the Bowser administration told lawmakers that one of the city government’s top priorities for the coming year would be reduce gun violence and make the district a model city for police-community relations. The administration outlined steps it would take to reduce homicides in the city.

DC police statistics paint a grim picture of the time since. It’s a sad portrait of failure that won’t surprise many residents. The data show there have been almost 1,330 more violent crimes with a firearm in the past two years than there have been the previous two.

The photo is self-explanatory. From August 4, 2020 to August 4, 2022, the district recorded 363 homicides; there were 282 in the previous two years combined. Robberies totaled 2,409,893 more than the 1,516 in the previous period. Assaults and sexual abuse cases involving a firearm have also increased.

A tighter focus draws an even more striking picture. Year-over-year homicides, at 128 so far in 2022, are up 12%. And theft is even worse. The Metropolitan Police Department has already recorded 1,271 this year, an increase of 20% compared to the same period of 2021.

Did DC just sit on his hands?

Since 2020, the city has spent — “invested,” officials say — millions in community solutions to crime. District-funded workers conducted street violence and awareness interventions, focusing on neighborhoods plagued by gun-related homicides, robberies, assaults with dangerous weapons, as well as ‘where most of the gunshot victims are. Community groups have been dotted with numerous mini-crime reduction grants.

The city is also trying to match people deemed to be at high risk of involvement in gun violence — due to prior incarceration, criminal history, or having been victims of crime themselves — with teams. that can help them access services such as job training, supported employment and behavioral health. treatment. It’s too early to tell if it’s all working.

This week, Linda K. Harper, the city’s director of gun violence prevention, and Chris Geldart, deputy mayor for public safety, met at the correctional treatment facility, where they listened to inmates tell them how to fight rampant crime in the city. In response to being told by a corrections officer, “There are a lot of subject matter experts here,” Harper would have said“That’s where the answers will come from.”

Harper must have spoken ironically.

She has been at this job for over 20 years. From her time as the Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Coordinator, to a leadership position with DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services dealing with minors involved in crime, to Lifetime Residence in Ward 4, home to drug and gang activity (and where I also live), Harper is well versed in crime and gun death. “My view of gun violence is shaped by the number of casualties I have suffered,” she said in a 2021 interview. “I had friends who were killed and I also had young people I worked with who were killed.”

That’s not to say city officials don’t need to visit DC Corrections for information and ideas. We never learn enough. But what do we do with what we already know about the driving forces of violence?

One of the answers is as old as the problem: illegal firearms. The second is as old as the first: violent repeat offenders.

Residents who hear continuous gunfire, wailing sirens and see the yellow tape and sheet-draped bodies fear crime has a firm grip on their town and won’t let go. Should this be the case?

We must confront a reality as old as the socio-economic ills that contribute to armed violence.

Most of the people killed in our city are black. Most shooters are also black.

But descending from this point into a senseless debate over black-on-black crime wastes time and ignores the truth.

Exposure to violence does something to you. Likewise, living in economic and social circumstances that tell you – no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise – that your life is worth less and that drugs and alcohol can help you cope or escape . Downstairs, feelings of despair and self-loathing can leave you living with a smoldering rage. It doesn’t take much for arguments over nothing, or a desire for revenge an affront or seize the opportunity to get your hands on something that does not belong to you, only to degenerate into the use of a weapon. Especially if there is no hope in the future to drive the day.

This is what we must pay attention to. These are not moral failures but public health issues that come before us at gunpoint.

Reduce poverty, make school and paid work rewarding? Sure. But let’s get to the deeper challenges that bring us these terrible crime statistics.

Face it DC We know what’s behind them.

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