Ward Five has experienced a substantial increase in crime lately, particularly shootings, and a lot of that crime is taking place in our neighborhood. But citizens are gathering together to fight crime with a determination that I have never seen before. I attended four crime-focused meetings in the past month.
On September 7, Bloomingdale residents responded to a double-shooting of two woman who were shot while walking a dog (the dog was killed in the incident) by holding a meeting. I wish I could share with you the name of the individual who organized this meeting, but given that the meeting was confidential, I won't. It wasn't a commissioner or politician, it was a long-time resident. Bloomingdale residents didn't approach the meeting with questions of the police or politicians, but rather with very specific demands. The deadlines for meeting these demands were very short and the phrasing of the demands was (understandably) terse, but then-Commander Jennifer Greene responded very well. Meeting the demands was a matter of when, not whether.
On September 11, the experiment of a joint PSA 501-civic association meeting proceeded for the first time. I believe it was a success-- instead of virtually no citizen attendance (other than myself, Tom Usselman, and the police), 17 people attended the meeting hosted by Eckington Civic Association. Lt. White reported the rash of shootings, adding that there were 41 burglaries in PSA 501 in July. The police arrested four burglars, two of whom were out of jail pending sentencing. The police and residents discussed community strategy as well as the reasons behind the reoccuring crime (many of the criminals are back on the street three days after their arrest).
On September 22 (10 a.m. on a Saturday), seven residents attended my monthly constituent meeting at Sursum Corda Library. That meeting, which was attended by Sgt. Woodard and two other officers, focused almost entirely on crime issues faced by residents on Hanover Place N.W. Sgt. Woodard made the interesting comment that there are hardly any armed robberies of citzens, which stood in marked contrast to the tensions expressed over the Eckington listserv about safety in the New York Avenue area.
Finally, on September 25, the Bloomingdale residents held a follow-up meeting with police and government officials to verify progress. At least 40 people attended this meeting, including Mayor Adrian Fenty, Councilman Harry Thomas, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, Capt. Scott, Lt. Wright, Lt. White, other officers, and four Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. Again, the meeting details are secret, but problem property owners providing havens for drug activity should expect contact with police and community leaders in the near future about what they must do about tenants. The only demand that gave me pause was a proposal to place speed humps on R Street N.W. It seemed that the speed hump demand would be implemented without wider community input (beyond petitions on the immediate block), even though R Street acts as a signficant rush hour artery.
Clearly, if the current level of citizen vigilance is maintained, the criminals will move on. The question is how to sustain the intensity.