With three weeks left in 2018, the number of homicides in the District is nearly 45 percent higher that last year’s total, prompting one lawmaker to say the city is in a “state of emergency.”
As of Monday, there have been 154 homicides this year in District, compared to 108 homicides for all of 2017 — a 43 percent increase, according to Metropolitan Police Department statistics. Many major cities have reported declines in homicides across the country this year.
D.C. Council member Trayon White, Ward 8 Democrat, called The Washington Times on Monday, saying he was picking up bandages for a resident in his ward who was recovering from being shot on Saturday.
“We’re in a state of emergency when it comes to violence in the community,” Mr. White said, calling the increase in homicides “significant.” “We’re not even talking about the number of people shot. We’re in a crisis right now when it comes to violence in the city.”
City officials on Monday did not identify a cause for the increase in homicides, but vowed to continue funding services and programs to address unemployment, health care and public safety to root out the causes for violence.
“We will continue to work with the community to connect residents to on-the-ground violence interrupters, neighborhood safety engagement teams, appropriate health care, mobile employment service stations, and the supports and resources people need to thrive,” Kevin Donahue, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said Monday in a statement.
“By working together as a community and across D.C. government agencies, we will continue to build safer neighborhoods and stronger communities,” said Mr. Donahue, adding that city officials need residents’ help “to identify suspects and get illegal guns out of our communities.”
A pair of gun-related homicides this weekend in Ward 8 raised the District’s tally to 154: Jacob Jones, 32, died of multiple gunshot wounds at Pennsylvania and Southern avenues SE on Saturday, police reported. Leonard Ray, 20, died Friday night at a hospital after he was found suffering multiple gunshot wounds in the 3400 block of Croffut Place SE.
Metropolitan Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the gunmen.
Ward 8 resident Ronald Thompson Jr. said there have been three different shootings in his apartment complex near Cedar Heights over the last eight days.
“There’s a broken system of governance that’s keeping people jobless or without education,” said Mr. Thompson, 20.
In a social media message to The Times, he said “idle time” and “economic inequality” contribute to violence in his community, which is in one of the District’s poorest wards.
Anti-violence advocates in the city agree. They aim to reduce violence via a pilot program by the D.C. Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to recruit residents with community connections to help troubled neighbors. These “violence interrupters” try to help stop retaliatory clashes by reaching out to their neighborhood networks and mediating conflicts.
The Cure the Streets program currently operates two sites in Ward 8 and Ward 5, and relies on funding from the OAG and the city council, a spokeswoman said.
“The cure violence model is based on a public health approach to stopping violence,” said Seema Gajwani, OAG’s special counsel for juvenile justice reform.
Mr. Gajwani said Cure the Streets is trying to solve the District’s violence problem like it’s a disease — stopping the transmission, identifying those most at risk and getting them treatment, and changing community norms.
The Times previously reported that the District’s homicide rate surpassed 2017’s in September. At the time, the Brennan Center for Justice in New York found that the District was one of the country’s only major cities with murders on the rise.
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