For Immediate Release: September 21, 2015
Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun, 202-724-8028, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, DC) – On Wednesday, September 16 – the first day that the D.C. Council reconvened after summer recess – Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D – Ward 5), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, held a public hearing on solutions to violent crime in the District of Columbia. The hearing also considered Bill 21-0261, the “Sale of Synthetic Drugs Amendment Act of 2015.” To date, 115 homicides have been committed this year in the District, representing a 44 percent increase over last year. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the steps that the city is taking to prevent and respond to violent crime, to address the underlying causes, and to prioritize community responses to what should be viewed as a public health crisis.
Residents and advocates packed the Council Chambers for a ten-hour hearing with sixty-seven public witnesses. The hearing started at 5:00 p.m. and ended at 3:30 am with executive witnesses Kevin Donahue, Deputy City Administrator and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice; Cathy Lanier, Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police; and LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director of the D.C. Department of Health. Councilmembers Allen, Alexander, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, Grosso, May, Nadeau, Silverman, and Todd, all whom have organized efforts in their own respective wards in response to the uptick in crime, were in attendance.
Councilmember McDuffie has been discussing holistic strategies to combat crime in the District. As a result of those discussions and additional research and outreach by his office, McDuffie will be introducing a legislative package this month to offer community- and evidence-based solutions to violent crime.
“I was very pleased with the outcome of the hearing and applaud our public witnesses for braving the ten hour hearing for their voices to be heard,” said McDuffie. “This meeting was not about pointing fingers but an opportunity to walk away with short and long term solutions to solve this problem. I have heard the concerns from those within the community. We can’t arrest our way out of the problem but need to take a holistic approach to addressing the systemic issues that impact crime. While we don’t have all of the answers, we do know that this violent crime must be treated like a public health crisis, and the city is taking the necessary steps to mitigate the spike in crime with a focus on prevention”.
The Bowser administration previewed an emergency budget proposal that will come before the Council next week, in addition to a legislative proposal, to respond to violent crime. Included in the proposals are an investment of $1.25 million in a “mini-grants” initiative to community nonprofit organizations and individuals to provide youth enrichment activities, family support, mediation and mentoring to those communities most at risk related to violence; a community stabilization plan to involve multiple government agencies to work closely within the community providing wrap-around services to families impacted by violent crime; and investments in workforce development, education, and training.
Deputy Mayor Donahue stated in his testimony that overall, violent crime in the District – comprised of homicide, sexual abuse, assault with a dangerous weapon, and robbery – has increased one percent, and that cycles of trauma and violence, when combined with access to illegal guns, play a role in escalating personal disputes, leading to fatalities.
Residents provided many recommendations to what they believed would be long term solutions to combat and prevent crime with most agreeing that the city needs to treat violent crime as a public health crisis by adopting models such as Cure Violence, a program that trains violence interrupters with credibility within the community to target communities at risk for violent outbreaks; addressing mental health issues and substance abuse; youth workforce development; job readiness training required in schools; building relationships and trust between the police and community; engaging disconnected youth; addressing youth homelessness; and engaging community partners.