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Friday, May 24, 2024

Reflections on the DC Crime Wave

Last month on St. Patrick’s Day, The Washington Post’s editorial board published a  powerful opinion entitled Can anything stop the DC crime wave?   https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/03/17/dc-crime-blame-bowser-council-prosecutors/

The editorial includes statistics, charts, graphs, and a fair share of finger pointing But it offers some concrete recommendations.  It concluded that “Crime in Washington isn’t just the mayor’s problem, or the council’s. All of those with power to improve the situation owe the city more.”  The editorial lists those debtors as U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew Graves, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, Police Chief Pamela Smith and D.C. judges.

While I agree that our elected and appointed public officials can and must do more, there are those in the community who also owe the city more.  So, I add to the Post’s list:

  1. Parents and guardians. Some youth are totally out of control and adult supervision at home is either too lax or totally absent.  Parents and guardians must be strongly encouraged to seek professional help for their wayward kids.  Also, these adults need to be more mindful of some decisions that can have negative effects on their kids.  There is no need for a middle school student to have a smartphone.
  2. Youths. The minors that are involved with shoplifting, carjacking and violent behaviors know they are doing wrong but obviously think that the consequences for their negative actions are no big deal and are willing to take risks.  Our youths are heavily impacted by social media and music and social media influencers and performing arts need to do more to change the messages that kids are receiving.
  3. Schools. Parental engagement needs to be strengthened.  There are schools that have no viable PTAs or equivalent organizations. Also, schools, with the help of the community, need to develop more co-curricular and extracurricular activities to help students expand their interests and find their passions.
  4. Churches. There are nearly 200 churches east of the river. Many youths only see the inside of these houses of worship when there are funerals.  The pastors need to be more involved in community activities and open the doors of their churches to community for more than worship services.
  5. Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. The members of the commissions should be more involved in organizing constructive and safe activities for our youths. The ANCs should recruit high school students to serve as interns and receive community service hours toward graduation.  Also, some of the commissions need to change the way they conduct their business.  When there are Single Member Districts that are vacant, it should be a priority to fill those positions.  It is inexcusable for a SMD to go months or years without a representative.  Also, there are times when ANC public meetings devolve into bickering among its members and little of substance is accomplished.
  6. Civic Associations. Some civic associations are older than Home Rule.  These organizations can play critical roles in establishing a sense of community place, pride and tradition.  Unlike ANCs, which are governmental entities with restrictions, civic associations can operate with more flexibility.  Unfortunately there are east-of-the-river neighborhoods that have no civic associations.  Also, some of the organizations struggle to stay afloat and some are on the verge of becoming defunct.  Because civic associations totally rely on volunteers, when their leaders are not functioning effectively, the organizations suffer.
  7. Businesses. Some businesses do not operate in the best interest of the public health, safety and environment.  In too many cases there is little to no communication with business owners and community organizations and leaders.
  8. The Community At Large. The code of silence in our community is literally killing people.  There are many people who have information that could close a homicide case but will not come forth even though they can do it anonymously.

I am sure that you readers have other categories of persons or organizations that you could include in the list.  I realize that like The Washington Post editorial board I am engaging in finger pointing.  I feel that at the community  level, if we are to engage in finger pointing, we should form a circle.  We must all challenge one another to do more.  We particularly owe that to the children.

Long-time Ward 8 community activist Philip Pannell can be contacted at philippannell@comcast.net. Pannell is the Executive Director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council. Help Make Wards 7 & 8 Great! Become a Member of the Anacostia Coordinating Council: Visit http://www.anacostiacc.org/join-us.html.

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