Update on city services for Kennedy & 5th Street

Google Street view of the 5th & Kennedy Streets intersection.

Jasmin Benab, the ever-present, hard-working member of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety team, sent an email out this afternoon on behalf of Kevin Donahue, the deputy mayor, with updates on city services and next steps for the 5th and Kennedy area..

Petworth News has heard from a credible source that the city came down pretty hard on the strip mall at 5th and Kennedy, bringing all kinds of agencies to inspect the privately owned shopping center and to encourage the business owners to cooperate with the community, MPD and the Mayor’s office in keeping the property safe. Penalties of $6,000 or more were levied. We understand that the business owners have agreed to install more lights, discourage long-term loitering on the property and install more outdoor cameras. Really happy to see the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement be much more involved in supporting this area — policing isn’t a solution, it requires a concerted effort by the city to bring in more services and opportunities.

The Deputy Mayor’s email is below…

Dear Ward 4 residents and ANC Commissioners:

I want to provide you an update to my February 15 email on the city’s multi-agency response for improving safety along Kennedy Street. Since that email, we have coordinated a number of actions involving law enforcement, violence interrupters, and our regulatory agencies. I very much appreciate the partnership we have developed between Councilmember Todd’s office, Uptown Main Street, and the Kennedy Street community. These actions reflect both what we see when we are out in the community, and more importantly, what we hear from you.

First, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) has expanded the number of violence intervention staff on Jefferson, Kennedy, Longfellow, and Crittenden Streets and Georgia Avenue, with new full-time violence intervention workers and case managers. This new team has been hiring over the past two weeks and will be fully hired up by the end of next week. These street intervention teams are comprised of individuals from these respective communities who have credibility with those most at risk of being involved in violence. Their job is to identify these individuals, reach out to them, and work with case managers to assist them in making better decisions.

Additionally, the street intervention staff is working to mediate long-standing feuds between the Kennedy Street community and other neighborhoods. The challenges that we face have deep roots in poverty, lack of economic and educational opportunities, unstable housing, and insufficient access to health care providers, particularly to assist recurring and ongoing trauma. This task will not be fast, nor does it guarantee there won’t be episodes of violence. However, the team contracted by ONSE to work on Kennedy Street and surrounding community has a long history in Wards 1 and 4 of engaging with at-risk individuals and helping them get on better paths.

 Second, in response to community concerns about the practices of some Kennedy Street corridor businesses, Jasmin Benab from my office has coordinated a number of regulatory enforcement sweeps by DCRA, DC Health, DPW, and OTR. These sweeps resulted in the issuance of almost two dozen citations to several businesses, including Kenny’s Carry Out and Starlite Groceries. My office has been in contact with the property and business owners around 5th and Kennedy Streets and we are working with them to develop and implement safety measures, including the installation of security cameras. For any business that continues to engage in unlawful activity, we will work with the Office of the Attorney General on possible legal remedies.

During the regulatory sweeps, DPW identified several areas where illegal dumping and littering were an ongoing blight. The DPW teams cleaned up those areas along the streets and alleys. Our regulatory enforcement agencies will continue their efforts to ensure all businesses are in compliance with the District’s business license, health code, and litter prevention requirements.

Finally, over the past several weeks, the Metropolitan Police Department has had a sustained presence along the Kennedy Street corridor, both in visible units on car, foot, and bike, as well as less visible units conducting investigations. To provide an opportunity for residents and police officers to meet and chat informally, we’re planning a “Coffee with a Cop” event on Kennedy Street, which we will be announcing shortly.

These efforts have produced some initial positive results. Over the past 30 days, the area within 1,000 feet of 5th and Kennedy Streets has seen a reduction in crimes and the sounds of gunshots compared to the previous 30 days. In the past 30 days, the only crimes within that radius has been a property crime (one theft from auto compared with two assaults with a dangerous weapon in the previous 30 days).

Please know that I don’t consider this work ever to be complete. This email does not represent a bookend to the initial email, but an update, which we will continue. We will stay focused, both when there are violent incidents, as well as when there are not. 

These efforts can only be effective by partnering with the community. I ask that you continue to use 311 for reporting broken streetlights, vacant buildings, illegal dumping, graffiti, and other public nuisances. We will keep engaging with the residents and businesses because only by working together can be make sure these improvements take root and are sustained.

Please feel free to reach out to me or Jasmin Benab on my staff if you have any questions or concerns.

We thank you for your support and look forward to announcing the date and location for “Coffee with a Cop.”

Kevin Donahue
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety & Justice 
Deputy City Administrator

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