WASHINGTON — An ongoing epidemic of violent gun crimes in the District has continued to enhance the spotlight on how city officials can better address the issue in our communities.
Last weekend, the city had eight people shot, including a 7-year-old girl who was just released from the hospital. This year is on track to outpace the number of homicides in 2020, which hit a 16-year high. Current data from police reports show a 35% increase in homicides from the same time last year.
The D.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action has called on city officials to invest in gun violence prevention and intervention by proposing priorities in next year’s budget.
The priorities were drafted with input from different community groups to analyze what needs more attention. It said there’s urgency to conduct problem analysis and social network mapping, develop a city-wide gun violence prevention strategic plan and create a “properly-done group violence intervention program.”
The group wants to reallocate funding from police into the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants and other agencies working to address mental, emotional and physical health.
It includes expanding existing violence intervention programs at schools and hospitals, increase funding for the Department of Behavioral Health Community Response Team, $5 million to expand mental health services and investing in youth summer jobs.
“We really need to invest in our communities, invest in interruption and intervention and help break the cycle of violence by treating trauma,” Rachel Usdan, D.C. chapter leader of Moms Demand Action, told WUSA9. “It needs to involve community and also needs to involve experts who have done this in other cities because we don't need to reinvent the wheel.”
Organizers are also emphasizing the need for more money and support to assist smaller organizations.
The budget hearings will take place in June.
Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced launching the Safer Stronger D.C. Summer Crime Prevention Initiative once again. Chief Robert Contee said his department plans to build positive relationships in specifically six neighborhoods to help decrease crime.
However, Rayvon Willis, founder of Rebels With A Cause, expressed skepticism since it felt like déjà vu. He suggested the city need to do more by giving community leaders a bigger seat at the table to finding solutions, which include better education opportunities, and places and activities for young people.
“Robberies and crime happen because people don’t have the money to take care of their families,” Willis said. “If you start giving people jobs and employment, the crime will go down. It’s just that simple. If you’re in a better spot in your life, you don’t have to resort to crime, robbing and killing people because you’re working.”
The summer crime initiative will last through Aug. 31.