ANC6B Outreach Committee Launches Public Safety MPD Liaison Effort
“If you don’t feel safe walking around – that should be the number one priority”
by Larry Janezich
Last Thursday night, Brian Flahaven, Chair of the ANC6B Community Outreach and Constituent Services Task Force, launched a renewed effort to better engage MPD with the ANC6B community. Flahaven crystallized the importance of the issue late in the meeting during a discussion of whether using ANC meeting time to further interaction between the community and police would cut into other ANC business when he replied, “If you don’t feel safe walking around – that should be the number one priority.” Flahaven characterized the effort as establishing a better partnership with MPD, since, he said, “Our goal is their goal – to create a safe community.”
The effort is timely. This evening, Hillnow reported on “multiple violent robberies” in the Hill area over the weekend. See here: http://bit.ly/1GIFIDc
There are two recurring points of interaction between the community and the MPD, both the outgrowth of community policing.
One is the regular PSA (Police Service Area) meeting, where police officials share monthly crime statistics and answer questions from community members. The second point of interaction is the community crime meetings, which usually occur following a spike in violent crime and are often convened at the request of councilmembers or ANC Commissioners in order to heighten police awareness of community concerns and to allow residents to hear what measures police are taking to address those concerns.
At Thursday night’s meeting, residents and commissioners spoke to the ineffectiveness of these two points of interaction and a need for the ANC to step up and create a more systematic communication bridge with the MPD that covered multiple PSAs.
The two PSA meetings in ANC6B – PSA 107 meeting on the first Thursday of the month, and PSA 108 meeting on the third Thursday are generally poorly attended by residents. The message received by MPD is too often: the community doesn’t care. When attendance is poor, MPD officials occasionally fail to show up, without notice. See here: http://bit.ly/1DVUoMM
In contrast, community crime meetings, while generally very well attended (see here: http://bit.ly/1AJSVcM and http://bit.ly/1tTTI2N), also tend to be inconclusive and sometimes seem to function primarily for the purpose of public relations: there is an airing of issues, reassurance by the police, and then nothing happens.
At both sporadic community and PSA meetings, the police tend to shift the blame for crime to the victims with advice not to leave items of value in cars and not to walk on the street while talking on a smart phone or listening to music with earphones. These are valuable messages in a neighborhoods that regularly welcomes new residents, many of whom have never lived in a city, but they also can be tedious to those of who heard these many times before.
Several positive ideas came out of the Task Force’s brainstorming session regarding how best to create a better sense of understanding between MPD and the community. Some of these included: create additional points where MPD can interact with the community, including meetings with the community by CM Charles Allen, ANC Commissioner “town hall meetings” scheduled with their constituents, and at block parties. Also, the ANC should encouraging ANC commissioners and resident members to attend PSA meetings.
Other ideas which emerged which could be useful in strengthening the dialogue between MPD and the community include:
Create a communications mechanism to ensure that community concerns reach Sergeants in charge of MPD roll calls where officers are apprised of matters of continuing concern when rotating onto a shift;
Make an opportunity for interaction with the MPD a regular part of ANC or ANC Committee or Taskforce meetings;
Create a priority list of long standing issues which the ANC can ask MPD for follow-up reports on what’s happening;
Restoring the practice once used by the MPD to release a narrative context neighborhood crime statistics;
Plan for regular community crime meetings in the spring, when crime seems to spike with the arrival of warmer weather; (Crime spikes around Christmas as well, when holiday shopping provides more opportunities for criminal activity);
and encourage MPD to monitor listservs to raise awareness of community concerns.
Flahaven said he would carry a report on tonight’s discussion as well as any recommendations for actionable items to the next ANC meeting on July 14.
PSA 107’s Lt. Fowler meets with residents at 7:00pm the first Thursday of the month in Southeast Library, lower level. PSA 108’s Lt. Dykes meets residents at 7:00pm the third Thursday of the month at Liberty Baptist Church, 527 Kentucky Avenue, SE.