When violence and shootings become the norm

There's an interesting thread going on the Petworth Listserv about the shootings and increase in violence in the Petworth area... and the lack of a communicated, comprehensive plan to deal with it. 

I know that MPD Fourth District, under Commander Wilfredo Manlapaz, is working to address the crime and is likely unable to communicate what their proactive and / or reactive investigative steps are to address the violence. But residents are ready to see constructive action and a comprehensive plan that is more than just platitudes and reactive policing, and includes city services and social programs to address, for the long term, the issues causing an environment that permits indiscriminate shootings, robberies and open air drug markets. What residents are hearing from MPD is "We know about it and we're investigating." From city administration we're hearing "We're working closely with MPD." And residents are asking why there are bullet holes in cars and homes, and fear that another person will be shot.

Jonah Goodman sent a well-written email to the Petworth Listserv, which I quote below. He has pulled together a number of valuable resources, including a Google Map of recent shootings

Jonah writes:
"From south and east of Grant Circle there have been 13 shootings/shots fired since October 23, 2013. 10 of those happened in the past six months.

Google Map of recent shootings in Ward 4 and Petworth.

Google Map of recent shootings in Ward 4 and Petworth.

  • 12/26/2014 - 4th and Taylor
  • 1/14/2015 - Grant Circle
  • 1/18/2015 - 2nd and Varnum
  • 3/7/2015 - 3rd and Upshur
  • 3/16/2015 - 3rd and Upshur
  • 4/5/2015 - 4th and Taylor
  • 4/8/2015 - 3rd and Upshur
  • 4/19/2015 - Taylor and Illinois
  • 5/15/2015 - 4th and Taylor (bullet entered child's bedroom)
  • 6/6/2015 - 4th and Taylor (one person hit)

"We have an obvious hot spot centered around 4th and Taylor - 3rd and Upshur, with a regular drug market in the alley south of 4th and Taylor. Now this is nothing compared to what neighbors around Kennedy Street are dealing with, but it is significant increased gun violence nonetheless. Neighbors have reported this at PSA meetings, at emergency gun violence meetings, to CM Bowser and again to mayor-elect Bowser. We have asked CM candidates in the recent special election for answers. The gun violence has been covered in the Washington Post, DCist, NBC4 (expressed interest, not sure if they ran the story). To date I haven't heard of any plan or even portions of a plan to address the violence. It is understood that MPD can't and shouldn't reveal every detail about how it is going about addressing the gun violence in the area but there isn't even basic communication being shared with neighbors.

On December 27, 2014, during that period of gun violence Mayor-elect Bowser wrote:

"On Monday, the Chief and her team will provide a full briefing to me from the MPD headquarters, where I will review their immediate action plan to stop violence before it starts." (original quote)

Three months later when we were still dealing with the issue there was an emergency PSA 407 meeting on March 21, 2015. MPD stated the meeting was "to address the recent concern for sounds of gunshots and gun violence in the Petworth area." Councilmember Bonds attended and said point blank to Lieutenant Van Crawford that the community wanted to hear a plan about how gun violence would be addressed. This meeting even was highlighted on WUSA 9 news. To date there has been not plan, or pieces shared with the PSA 407 community.

One month later when we still are dealing with shootings, at the recent Fourth District CAC  meeting on April 30, Chief Lanier was asked about a comprehensive plan to address gun violence. Petworth News covered the meeting: "A resident asked about a comprehensive plan to deal with the recent rise in shootings and other crime in Petworth and along the Kennedy Street corridor. Chief Lanier said she wasn’t sure of any “comprehensive plan,” but that as an example, from her own time serving in Ward 4, she’s aware that Kennedy Street sees a spike in crime “from time to time” caused “mainly by young (under 20) people. We see a lot of benefit by getting social services involved,” she said."

Here we are in June, six months since the Mayor's walk-through and proclamation about an "immediate action plan to stop violence" and we are still asking the same questions.

Let me [Jonah] close by saying I have the highest respect for MPD. I believe they are being tasked with solving quite a complex issue without the full amount of resources they need, just like our teachers. I also recognize that arrests and policing is not the answer to an endemic problem rooted in inequality across almost all social services. Further the police can not change laws that tie their hands nor can they change sentencing guidelines. At the end of the day all of these city services work for us and I believe we can expect a better quality of life in Petworth, one that is free from fear of gun violence. I think this starts with hearing a real plan from our elected officials in coordination with MPD.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.

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