WASHINGTON — In response to juveniles committing and being victims of crime in D.C., a new patrol unit on bikes is working to connect with them to keep them away from violence in the first place.
Officers who are part of the initiative say it’s working.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Officer Anthony Attardo said.
Attardo is part of the new Community Focused Patrol Unit that DC Police launched in July 2021. It consists of 27 officers on mountain bikes tasked with patrolling some of the highest crime areas in the District.
Right now, police said they are targeting Columbia Heights, Washington Highlands and Bloomingdale, but said those areas will gradually change as they analyze data in real-time.
“We're able to smell, we're able to see things, we're able to hear,” Sgt. Mohamed Ibrahim said. “With our bikes, we’re just more approachable, OK, it gives the public a sense of comfort.”
It also offers them a way to connect with kids face-to-face, who are increasingly committing violence in D.C., while they, their friends, and family simultaneously become victims of crime.
The day before WUSA9 met up with Sgt. Ibrahim and the unit in Columbia Heights, 15-year-old Malachi Jackson was shot to death there while he was out for a run.
“It's definitely a challenge,” Sgt. Ibrahim said. “But all you could do is try to be out there, give support, and give trust.”
They say it’s throwing a kid a ball or checking in with vendors on Irving Street that will make a difference.
“This is definitely an answer. This is definitely an answer,” the sergeant said. “You know, every juvenile is different. We try to hear them out… We just want to have one positive interaction that they say, 'Wow, MPD was here for me.'”
Police said this route kicks the summer and fall crime initiatives up a gear.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said the areas those programs focused on saw a 20% decrease in violent crime in the summer of 2021 and an 11% decrease in the fall.
“We've been unfortunately, well, fortunately in the right place at the right time. About a month ago, some of our officers they caught a robbery …Our officers also made an arrest for an assault,” Sgt. Ibrahim said. “From our presence being out there, we've made some great cases.”
Police said they don’t have the stats yet on the unit’s impact, but the officers who are part of the unit said they see the success every day.
“Well, when the neighborhood and the community ask for you specifically, that's always a good feeling to have, you know, and you can tell you know when people are happy to see you,” Officer Attardo said. “They’re smiling ‘Hey, Officer,’ you know, and they'll stop, they'll ask you questions, they'll engage with you.”
“I love to be here. I love to engage with the community,” Sgt. Ibrahim said. “If we could make one difference in someone's life. I'm happy with that.”
So, in communities rattled by violence, they’ll continue to peddle peace.
D.C. Police said they will be able to provide more concrete data on the unit at the end of July because that will mark one year since its creation.
Police have announced other initiatives in 2022 targeting violent crime, including the Violent Crime Impact Team, which is a partnership with federal partners, like the ATF, FBI, and DEA.
The city also launched People of Promise, which targets 200 residents that the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform identified as being at the highest risk of involvement in gun violence in DC.
Furthermore, the mayor announced more investment in parks and recreation, which kids and their families alike have requested for years.