MPD Lieutenant Anthony Washington, who manages the Police Service Area 407, held a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, December 21st to discuss crime and other issues in the Petworth area. (PSA 407 covers most of central Petworth). Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd and his staff were in attendance, along with a large contingent of residents.
The big topic was the recent gun violence in the area, including the shootings at 7th and Shepherd (with one fatality) and two incidents at 3rd and Upshur / Taylor Streets (with one critically injured and still in the hospital).
Lt. Washington said that MPD believes the recent incidents to be targeted and not random, and that the people involved are all local (meaning it probably isn't people coming from outside the area). It's local arguments, basically. Since those incidents, it's been quiet, "Knock on formica," he said, rapping on the table.
The safety of children at local daycares came up repeatedly, mainly because there is a small daycare near the shooting at 3rd and Upshur. Lt. Washington said that DCPS schools have a protocol to be aware and lock down if there are nearby incidents, but not daycare centers. He is working on a new protocol to alert daycares to crimes occurring nearby, and make sure MPD officers are aware of the location of daycare centers. One issue is that there isn't a comprehensive list of the centers, and there are many small ones, so it can be difficult to know the exact locations, but he's trying.
Lt. Washington said that realistically, there won't be a new camera installed (or moved) for the 3rd & Upshur location, even though residents have complained about high levels of drug activities in the alley and have asked for the camera to be moved. Most of the issues, if not all, are originating from one house, according to residents at the meeting. Washington said MPD was well aware of the house, and have raided it several times in the past. However, the home is owned by an elderly resident who resides there, and the alleged crimes are being committed by other adults who take care of her, or come in and out. "It's not the house," Washington said, "It's the individuals who go to the house."
Washington urged residents to take advantage of DC's home security camera rebate program. Both he and CM Todd said that it's helpful to have cameras from a deterrent perspective, but more importantly, to have evidence after the fact and help generate leads to solve crimes. That said, the area will see more patrols and attention from MPD, "This is not a forgotten location," Washington said.
Residents also spoke about the implementation of the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act and the new Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE). The NEAR Act and the new ONSE are designed to provide wrap-around programs and services to help deter crime and provide opportunities to those most at risk for committing violent crime.
Todd said the Council is hopeful about the NEAR Act and the ONSE, and that there are many government programs already in existence to help residents, but the challenge was in getting them promoted and communicated. He said he is inviting ONSE Director McFadden to the next Citizen's Advisory Council meeting for the Fourth District so that McFadden can discuss NEAR and how his new department will try to make a difference.
Councilmember Brandon Todd said that it's important for residents to attend the PSA meetings (check the Community Calendar for upcoming ones). "Identify at least one person from your block to attend your local PSA meeting," Todd said. He continued that it was important for MPD leadership to hear about resident concerns, and residents to hear about the latest from MPD.
Lt. Washington wrapped up the meeting asking residents to email him if they have concerns or questions. If you email Commander Manlapaz or Chief Newsham, they're just going to forward the email back to Washington, so if you want a faster response, email him directly. "If you're not getting what you need, by all means email the Commander or the Chief, but give me a chance to help you first," he said. (I can attest to how quickly Washington responds -- but note that he works the overnight shift, so you might not get an immediate response.)
Beyond that... it's the same topics at these PSA meetings every time there's a spate of shootings. We need more MPD presence, we need non-police options, we need to resurrect the orange hats, etc. What's clear is that MPD can only react to issues and respond to crime, it's up to the city agencies and neighbors to try to slow down these issues. Hard task.