► ANC 5C Chair Anita Bonds held a special anti-crime meeting on June 5th that brought together various leaders who operate within the criminal justice system. My hat is off to her for having the vision and energy to bring all of these individuals together.
► The June 12th Eckington Civic Association meeting featured a strong police presence and discussion. I got to know Sgt. Tyshena Wallace better as she took questions and requests from residents, and she went the extra mile by writing down the names of numerous officers serving Eckington.
► I attended the June 14th Le Droit Park safety committee meeting, which was held in conjunction with numerous PSA 501 personnel and dozens of residents.
► Finally, Officer Black attended my single-member district meeting on June 18th. Only a handful of residents showed up, but they had many requests for Officer Black to write down.
The Le Droit Park meeting in particular was well-attended in part due to the latest brazen robbery on Windows Cafe (located at 1st and Rhode Island Avenue N.W.) and the serial muggings of Le Droit residents within the past month. The police interaction at these meetings has been exceptional, as has their protection of Windows, which is a symbol of progress in this neighborhood. The repeated robberies of Windows owner Hunegnaw Abeje and his wife are severe blows to the neighborhood's morale and economic vitality.
Nevertheless, I didn't get a clear sense at any of these meetings about effective ways for residents and business owners to fight back. I suggest that we consider the following three ideas that do not require any change in District law, but may provide an effective deterrent in many circumstances:
1. Pepper Spray-- Residents have the right to carry pepper spray provided that it is properly registered. If a mugger does not have a gun (and many do not), this method is extremely effective. The attacker could be incapacitated for a sufficient amount of time for the police to respond to a 911 call. Pepper spray would have been effective in the Le Droit Park muggings, where the assailants reportedly did not possess weapons.
2. Community-sponsored Self-Defense Classes-- I am looking for a sponsor to offer reduced-cost or free self-defense classes to residents. I took classes myself soon after moving into the neighborhood, and successfully employed verbal defense technique on one occasion. Classes can range from verbal self defense to defense against knives and guns (when you don't have a weapon).
3. Shotgun Possession by Business Owners -- District law generally prohibits the possession of all handguns and any functional shotguns and rifles. However, the nonfunctionality requirement does not apply to firearms kept at one's place of business. Yet many business owners are not exercising their rights to operate a shotgun or rifle. Criminals often believe, correctly, that they can rob a business with impunity because there will be no armed resistance.
This is a matter best left to the discretion and comfort level of the business owner, but general knowledge that a particular business owner has firepower behind the counter gives the criminal a strong incentive to avoid robbing that business. Whether customers will feel uncomfortable with the knowledge that a gun is on the premises is again a business call.
If a store owner does believe a shotgun fits with his/her business plan, the firearm must be registered with the police department. I strongly encourage such individuals to be fully acquainted with gun safety principles and to discuss use-of-force guidelines with D.C. police.
These proposals are only a beginning (I often hear concerns about loitering... more on that later). But more than proposals, we need people actively doing positive, proactive things in the community. Earlier today, I received an e-mail from Ted McGinn, who writes:
I will be speaking to a group of 50 gang members from all over the city this week at Emery on race and class issues within their communities that have resulted in them committing crimes. I will be talking to them about how they can learn more about the past heritage of their family through a DNA mapping project at Howard University that has a database of DNA from all over Africa and can test them to find out where they came from. Part of the problem is a lack of grounding of our young men, a sense of pride in their roots as a foundation to build on. . . . This group is part of the City funded summer jobs program.Self-defense techniques are tools of protection, but they only treat the symptoms. The activities by devoted people like Ted are needed for crime prevention and cure.