But there are open questions about whether the plan will be more than words on paper, and to what extent it overlaps with programs the city is already running.
“I think we have an excellent document to build on,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Thursday night at a community meeting to discuss the plan. “We are here and urgently working on a comprehensive approach such as the one represented here to help people choose a different path.”
The Strategic Plan for Reducing Gun Violence, published this month by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), contains a set of 16 recommendations that experts say would reduce violent crime in the short term and the socioeconomic factors that give rise to violence. in DC over time.
The report recommends the city establish a “peace room” where data and crime analysts, violence reduction managers and government agency liaisons coordinate immediate responses to shootings that go far beyond the police. It also asks DC to hold weekly meetings to discuss any shooting incident; create a city-wide database to coordinate inter-agency services for each person under surveillance; increase the number of aid workers in the field of violent intervention and establish an academy to train them, among other things.
“The district is unique in that it is one of the few cities in the country that has the talent, capability and resources necessary to dramatically reduce gun violence in the city,” according to the report prepared by the National Institute for Criminal Justice. reform. “However, it lacks the political commitment, coordination and a coherent strategy to reduce gun violence.”
In recent years, the district has established a permanent gun violence prevention agency and announced a series of initiatives that provide a holistic approach to combating gun violence. Some programs, such as the Pathways Temporary Employment Program, have been largely heralded for success. But what critics say is lacking is a general framework to coordinate resources around a single mission that effectively reduces violence in the city. Bowser’s signature crime-fighting initiative, Building Blocks DC, has grown into a theory that even top officials have struggled to define.
The strategic plan put forth by the CJCC could provide the roadmap the city needs, according to the authors and DC officials.
“This is starting to create a strategy, not multiple disparate strategies,” said City Councilman Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), chairman of the Justice and Public Safety Committee and member of the CJCC. “That’s the pivot and turning point that potentially lies ahead of us.”
DC Director of Gun Violence Prevention Linda K. Harllee Harper said the city will use the report as the basis of their work and expressed pride that the district has already made progress on much of what was outlined in the document.
“Opportunities for public and government input will finalize the plan,” she said in a statement. “The goal is to create a plan that can be completely adopted by the city.”
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Public safety has become the number one concern for an increasing percentage of DC residents as violent crime continues to devastate urban neighborhoods. Last year, the district surpassed 200 homicides for the first time since 2003; as of Thursday, it is on track for an even higher homicide rate this year. The number of robberies is up more than 50 percent compared to the same point in 2021, according to D.C. police data. A Washington Post poll published in February found that 36 percent of respondents named crime, violence or weapons as the district’s biggest problem — twice as many as in a 2019 Post survey.
There is additional pressure to communicate a strategy around reducing violence With the June 21 Democratic primaries approaching, Bowser faces challengers from the left who have made public safety a central focus of their campaigns. Experts say the new strategic plan is a response to masses of DC voters who have called for ways to tackle violence beyond simply relying on law enforcement, but are increasingly desperate to feel safe.
If implemented, the report’s authors say their method could reduce homicides, nonfatal shootings and armed robberies by 10 percent a year — a stat they’ve achieved in other jurisdictions using a similar approach. The report prioritizes intervention and also includes recommendations targeting underlying causes and risk factors of violence, such as poverty and chronic unemployment.
Central to the report is a recommendation to “implement a comprehensive, coordinated, citywide strategy for gun violence reduction,” which experts describe as a data-driven approach that has been used in cities such as Boston and Oakland. The strategy includes relying on data to identify the people most at risk from gun violence and to provide them with intensive services, support and opportunities. It also encourages police to use a tactic called “targeted enforcement,” which diverts police involvement away from petty crime and toward reducing violence.
The document also suggests that the district is launching a “pilot income guarantee program” that will provide 200 black families with children under 10 with a monthly allowance of $750, among other initiatives targeting the root causes of violence.
“The idea is that this is going to be a living, breathing document that has repetitions over time,” he said David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.
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The district has already invested in a number of programs outlined in the strategic plan, Mohammed and city officials said. For example, the Child and Family Services Agency has long had success centers similar to the community resource hubs described in the report. More recently, the city launched its People of Promise Initiative using data collected by Mohammed. That initiative identifies individuals at greatest risk of gun violence and devotes resources to them, a central premise of the strategic plan.
“I want to say that the recommendations are encouraging because, in fact, we’ve already started working on each of the recommendations that NICJR has made in one form or another,” Harllee Harper said at the public meeting. “We’ve been encouraged because it means we’re on the right track.”
Community members at the public meeting urged Mohammed and city officials to allocate funding to the recommendations outlined in the report. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes a $1.7 million investment in life coaches to work with the highest-risk residents in D.C. The funding will enable 20 family support workers and three supervisors, the city said. The strategic plan recommends 62 life coaches, but city leaders said they want to roll out the program in waves. Both Muhammad and Harllee Harper said they hope to work together “soon” to develop implementation plans.
Peace to DC founder Roger Marmet, who lost his 22-year-old son Tom to gun violence in 2018, said he was “surprised, impressed and encouraged” to see Bowser appear at Thursday night’s public meeting. But he said he’s looking at the city’s budgets to reflect their commitment to the plan.
“I’m not 100 percent convinced, and I won’t be until we see those specific recommendations implemented with fidelity, with external evaluation, and with constant improvement,” he said. “All that is possible, but it would be a new way of working.”
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.